2008 Goldman Prize recipient Ignace Schops led the effort to establish Hoge Kempen, Belgium’s first and only national park. Raising more than US$90 million by bringing together private industry, regional and European Union (EU) government, local stakeholders, and NGOs, Schops created a new model for land conservation in the EU and beyond.
The park has since grown into a treasured national landmark, offering thousands of visitors each year a chance to connect with nature through hiking trails, bike rides and guided tours. Soon visitors will have a chance to experience the scientific side of nature conservation as well.
Last month, Schops and his team at Hoge Kempen announced plans for the development of the “International Field Research Center,” a pavilion that will be located at the main entryway to the park where students and professors from across the world will come to do research on biodiversity, climate change and other environmental studies.
Visitors to the park will have the opportunity to observe scientists at work at the “Ecotron+,” the state-of-the-art research wing of the International Field Research Center. Ecotron+ will house 12 “climate rooms” where scientists will conduct experiments to learn more about the effects of climate change.
Scientific results will be translated into multiple languages, so that park visitors can experience environmental research in real time.
“It’s a fantastic project,” Schops explained. The project is expected to cost over EU$6 million and is set to be complete by 2015. More information can be found on the Hoge Kempen website.