The third and final project meeting for the EuroVelo 13 project took place at the beginning of May in Riga, Latvia. The hosts used the arrival of the transnational partners to hold a successful press conference and arranged for the official opening of a beautiful new cycling and walking bridge in the village of Carnikava just to the north of the capital.
The project meeting was held on Thursday 7th May in Riga’s historic city centre – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. During the meeting the partners heard from Michael Cramer MEP, the ‘Godfather’ of the Iron Curtain Trail, and Romualdas Ražukas, the Latvian MP who was Chairman of the Latvian People’s Front and was closely involved in events that led to the fall of the Iron Curtain in Latvia.
One of the main objectives of the European Union co-funded project is to develop cycling tourism package offers based on EuroVelo 13 and the partners were able to announce the development of 50 separate offers. Many of these have already been successfully presented to the market. The partners were even able to celebrate the first packages created by the project being sold! Package offers in both Lithuania and Estonia have been purchased demonstrating the growing interest in cycling the Iron Curtain Trail.
Whilst the project partners were in Latvia an number of related events were organised. A press conference featuring Mr Ražukas, the MEPs Robert Zile and Mr Cramer, the ECF’s Adam Bodor, and Raitis Sijāts and Inese Šīrava representing the two Latvian project partners Vidzeme Tourism Association (VTA) and Latvian Tourism Development Agency (LTDA). The press conference attracted a lot of attention, including all the major TV channels in Latvia.
On the following day the project partners also got to cycle some of the route. It started with a significant section to the north of Riga actually located on the beach! Here the glistening white sand is firm enough to allow cyclists to cycle quite literally next to the Baltic Sea. The ride also incorporated one of the local sites linked to the theme of the route – a former USSR missile facility, which is gradually being returned to nature.
The tour ended in Carnikava municipality around 15 km from Riga where a brand new cycling and pedestrian bridge was officially opened by Mr Cramer and the local mayor. The bridge is 220m long and 4m wide and crosses the River Gauja. The adjoining cycle paths extend the bridge by more than 1km.
The new bridge was built by the local authority specifically to improve the Latvian section of EuroVelo 13 – and indeed this whole section has now been signed with EuroVelo signs – but it is already clear that it will come in great use for the local population too, as it saves a s 9km detour along busy public roads. Indeed, the opening of the bridge was attended by lots of children whose journey to school has now become a lot easier and fun!
Although the project partners will not be meeting together again the project itself does not finish until the end of September 2015 and we will be keeping you informed of all the new developments still to come over the coming months.
Photo Credits: Vidzeme Tourism Association