Last week, we detailed the first half of Lorrae Rominger’s recent outreach trip to Europe, where she met with 2005 Goldman Prize recipient Stephanie Roth in Berlin, Germany.
The second part of her trip brought Rominger (Interim Executive Director of the Goldman Prize) to Belgium, where she attended the Europarc 2012 Conference and reconnected with the event’s host – 2008 Goldman Prize recipient Ignace Schops.
Europarc is one of Europe’s largest annual nature conferences. This year the conference was held in Genk, Belgium, for the first time in 39 years- thanks to the efforts of Schops and his organization Regionaal Landschap Kempen and Maasland (RLKM).
Over 650 people from 40 countries attended the four-day conference, including representatives from hundreds of environmental NGOs and politicians from all levels of government. The EU Commissioner for the Environment Janez Potocnik addressed the crowd during the opening ceremony. Several local ministers and mayors were also in attendance.
The conference’s main venue was C-Mine, a former coal mine that has been converted into a state-of-the-art event center. Much of the original architecture from the coal mine has been preserved, creating a unique experience for visitors.
The theme of Europarc 2012 was centered around ‘ReConnection: trying to reconnect nature with society.’ The ReConnection model, developed by Schops and his team, is used at Hoge Kempen National Park- Belgium’s first national park which Schops’ helped create- and is widely regarded as one of the most successful conservation methods in Europe.
A variety of musical acts entertained conference attendees, each celebrating nature and the spirit of conservation. Below, an act serenades the audience using reclaimed waste containers.
Conference goers enjoyed a parade in honor of the grand opening of RiverPark Maasvalley, a transnational park that opened during the conference. The park protects the Maas River, one of the region's last wild rivers, which winds between Belgium and the Netherlands. RLKM worked closely with the Netherlands to establish the park. Celebrations took place on both sides of the river.