Chile's Route of Parks Will Be a Boom For Ecotourism

Patagonia's amazing wilderness is opening for visitors.

Dec 11, 2019

Chile has some of the most majestic and beautiful parks in the world. Now the country is launching a 1,700 mile (2,736 kilometers) Route of Parks that goes through 17 national parks in the Chilean Patagonia.

Some of the major parks in Patagonia Punta Arenas, Puerto Montt, Balmaceda, and the Torres del Paine National Parks already have tourism in place, but the Route is an initiative to bring tourism that is based on conservation and local needs according to The Guardian.

Kristine Tompkins and her late husband Douglas acquired much of the land over a 25 year period through their foundation, which helped lead to the creation of five new national parks in 2018. They purchased farmland and rewilded it to its natural state plus, wildlife corridors were created to conserve species.When the foundation gave over a million acres of land to Chile it was the largest private donation of land ever.

Tompkins told The Guardian that the next challenge was to develop tourism ventures while still protecting the biodiversity in the area. She is conflicted about tourism but believes it can do good if it helps to contribute to the restoration of nature through collected taxes, but it must be managed with very strict controls  

“We want local people to have a sense of ownership and pride. They will become the first line of defense in conservation,” Tompkins said at the European launch of the Route.

Trails and infrastructure have already been developed in two of the new parks. There are two small lodges, three campgrounds, and a visitor's center in Parque park. While Pumalín park has nine cabins and campgrounds. The plan is for surrounding communities to develop accommodations, transportation, guides, and cultural tours around the parks.

UK-based travel company Pura Aventura has been selling Patagonia holidays for two decades. The company told The Guardian that the Tompkins Foundation was a game-changer for tourism in Southern Chile.

“From our point of view, it’s very exciting that an organization with the heft of Tompkins is opening this [region] up because it means an almost endless supply of extraordinary places become accessible in a way that’s not going to be harmful. It’s about being able to travel in good conscience,” said Pura Aventura's co-owner Thomas Power.

The Route of Parks will start in northern Patagonia through three existing routes and will end in Cape Horn in the south. The route's website lists the various itineraries.

Tompkins is amazed that the vision she and her husband shared has come to fruition so quickly. Their first purchase in 1991 was of 200,000 acres at the toe of Reñihué Fjord in what is now Pumalín national park. “We made the outrageous proposal to create five parks and expand three more and I’m still dumbfounded that it reached its conclusion.”

Her future plans are to continue her conservation work in Chile and Argentina and to focus on the shorelines to get protection for marine areas. She also wants the foundation to support the climate youth activism movement.

“I listened to Greta’s speech at the United Nations summit and I can’t remember feeling this way in over 30 years," she said "It’s brilliant. I have zero faith in governments, but I see hope in the work we do and in Greta and her pals. We have to join them [the youth activists]. If we have any moral compass this is the time and I will be there.”

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE:
Chile Is Turning 11 Million Acres of Land Into National Parks
Rewilding Nature, a Unique UK Conservation Project
Canada Creates Conservation Area to Protect Arctic Lands and Waters

BONNIE RIVA RAS, EDITOR & WRITER
Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.