The beauty spot asking to 'expel' uncivil visitors
With 18,000 people visiting the spectacular creeks of Planes d'Hostoles, town hall asks government for tools to protect natural site
Surrounded by lush greenery and boasting waterfalls and natural bathing pools, the creeks of Planes d'Hostoles in the county of Garrotxa in the northern region of Girona are one of Catalonia's key beauty spots.
Yet, after incidents this summer in which visitors left litter behind, had unauthorized picnics, held drinking sessions, and let their dogs run free, the local authority is asking the government for more tools to tackle such uncivil behavior.
While the town hall hired two security guards a couple of years ago to enforce the local regulations, the municipality has no local police station, while the number of visitors to the area grew 20% this year to 18,000.
"It is not the case that visitors behave less civilly than in other years, but rather that with more people, the more possibilities there are that it will happen," said the town's mayor, Eduard Llorà.
"No rules in the countryside"
For Xavi, one of the two guards charged with enforcing local regulations, one of the problems is that people think that "in the countryside there are no rules, and that they can do whatever they want."
Xavi explains that the main part of his job is informing people and letting them know what they can and can't do, and he says he sometimes comes across people with an aggressive attitude that leave him no choice but to fine them.
This summer the two guards issued about 50 fines between them for uncivil behavior, which go from 100 to 300 euros, although Xavi also stresses that many visitors are "extremely grateful for the work we do."
Tools to regulate access to the site
Among the tools the local authority is asking from the government is the power to "expel" uncivil tourists, and to mark out the different areas of the site so as to be better able to regulate access to it, especially as there is no local police force.
One measure the town hall has already implemented is building a car park and making it the only place that vehicles can stop. Drivers pay five euros for the whole day and get a euro back in return if they bring back their litter.
Just this year, some 5,300 vehicles used the car park, up from 4,700 last year, with the money raised going to preserve the site. However, also this summer some 400 fines were issued to drivers who parked in unauthorized areas.