Luberon, Parc Naturel Regional

Website: http://www.parcduluberon.fr/geopark

Exceptional fossilization, unusual landscapes, exploitation of mineral resources: a territory project around geology…
Situated in Provence, next to the towns of Aix-en-Provence and Avignon, the Luberon Geopark covers a surface area of around 1,840 km2, and is inhabited by more than 156,000 people.

Oligocene fossiliferous deposits are one of the major geological interests of this territory. Vertebrates (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish), insects (dragonflies, butterflies…) and plants (leaves, seeds, flowers…) are exceptionally well-preserved inside platy limestones. Other sites reveal fossil bones of primitive mammals (horses, elephants, gazelles, etc.) but also footprints of rhinoceros, hyenas, young goats and birds, preserved on the surface of limestone slabs. The landscapes of the Luberon constitute an important element of the ge-odiversity of this region. One of the most remarkable is the ochre massif, which offers a landscape of cliffs and gullies, ranging in color from dark red to gold yellow. The grey marl hills around the town of Apt are another unusual landscape; they constitute a part of the Aptian stage stratotype described by Alcide d’Orbigny in 1840. Great natural sites such as the Oppedette gorges and the Veroncle gorges also contribute to this diversity.

Finally, the exploitation of mineral resources (ochres, lignites, clays, limestones…) has deeply marked the region; this is attested to by several ovens, quarries, factories, etc. The managing structure of the Geopark is the Luberon Park, it is one of the 44 French regional nature parks. It regroups 70 communes, which organize themselves around a concerted project of sustainable development, based on the protection and valorization of its natural and cultural heritage. Since 1996, theLuberon Park is a member of the worldwide network of Biosphere Reserves. It is also one of the first signatories of the European charter for sustainable tourism within protected areas (2001). In this respect, the Park is committed to encourage a sustainable vision of tourism, to co-operate with local stakeholders whether public or private and to open tourism to more beneficiaries (youngsters, seniors, disabled visitors…).

Commitments of the Park with regards to geology
On the Park’s initiative, a geological nature Reserve was created in 1987 in order to prevent the pillaging of several fossiliferous sites. In 1996, aprotection perimeter was set up over the territory of 27 communes. With regards to geology, the projects of the Park concern the protection of deposits, research, the sensitizing of the general public and the valorization of its geological heritage. In this respect, on-site information panels were setup, site-watching is organized and information leaflets are widely handed-out. Scientific studies and excavation works are regularly carried out in partnership with universities. Geology is valorized through on-site trips, conferences, temporary exhibitions and also books aimed at the general public. As far as school children are concerned, free educational animations are offered to the Luberon school classes, which are supervised by mountain guides. The Park also takes part in the sensitizing and training of tourist operators, teachers, and educators in the field of geology. Several exhibition facilities dealing with local geology and the exploitation of mineral resources were set-up in some villages of the Luberon. New projects are currently being designed (equipment, publications, footpaths…) for the wider public. The stake is now to create a proper networking of these equipment and communication tools, resting on an enhanced partnership with tourism professionals.

Contact

Maison du Parc naturel
regional du Luberon

60 place Jean-Jaures
BP122
F-84404 Apt cedex,
FRANCE
Tel. 0033 4 90 04 42 00
Fax. 0033 4 90 04 42 28
e-Mail: Christine Balme christine.balme@parcduluberon.fr
Stephane Legal stephane.legal@parcduluberon.fr
Website: http://www.parcduluberon.fr/geopark