For a few years now, the Gran Paradiso National Park has started the “Experience Camps” project, an occasion for youngsters and adults to collaborate with the Park by means of a group life-training activity. The project takes place in summer and gives the opportunity to actively participate in the Park initiatives. A camp supervisor will always be part of the group to organize and coordinate its activities. Among the requests received by the Park Institution, priority will be assigned to those who practice hiking, especially in the mountains, besides having experience in the environmental education and group animation fields. In consideration of the collaboration with the University of Turin and the  nature oriented training approach of these camps, graduates or students in scientific faculties will also receive priority, as well as people actively committed to environmental protection.
The service envisages active participation in a significant protection project called “Walking in the clouds”, according to which, on Sundays in July and August, car traffic is limited along the road that leads to a highland at a height of around 2,600 metres, the Nivolet plateau. For this reason, parking area management activities are provided for, as well as a strong interaction with tourists visiting the area.
Activities envisaged
The activities envisaged give volunteers the opportunity to further examine issues regarding management, tourist use and conservation of the environmental heritage in a national Park. The service includes the following:
• working together with staff at the Visitor Centres, with the objective of learning how to establish relationships with the general public and to start getting to know the tourism situation of the Park and the specific valley;
• exploration of the main tourist itineraries in the area, with the objective of starting to recognize or improve one’s knowledge of the mountain environment and the path network;
• information to the general public at particularly interesting locations, on the main events organized in the valley;
• location along the main tourist itineraries and paths, in order to give information to users about rules to follow in the protected area and therefore to prevent violations;
• collaboration with the Park staff in charge of disseminating knowledge and providing environmental education, such as children’s games, projections, cultural evenings, parties…;
• collection of data on tourist flows and on public participation in various events, and monitoring the Nivolet area;
• maintenance of paths and green areas, also in collaboration with other local institutions.
After the first two types of activities in the list have been carried out, the camp supervisor will be able to assess the hiking skills of the participants and their personal attitudes. The camp supervisor will assign tasks within the group in proportion to the degree of their experience with the paths and their service needs. Long camp stays (6-8 hours) may be required, especially on holidays. No collaboration activities are envisaged regarding monitoring and scientific research, since these activities are linked to specific programmes that require people with a scientific background and knowledge of the area.
Guestrooms are facilities owned by the Park, and set up to host people or groups working with the Institution in various positions (research projects, photographic services, articles, etc) or personalities on an official visit. These facilities are representational, and they must be kept tidy and clean. Guestrooms are equipped with beds, mattresses, blankets, pillows, cabinets, a kitchen equipped with pots and cutlery, a bathroom. Only personal things must therefore be taken along: sleeping bags or bed sheets, towels and of course food. No animals are allowed in the guestrooms.
To participate in the camps a training day is mandatory, that takes place in Turin, at the Park headquarters in Via Pio VII, on the first day of every shift. Training is not necessary for all those who have already participated in previous camps.
The objective of the training day is to provide volunteers with the necessary materials and information to perform the service appropriately. Locally and on other occasions during the camp, volunteers will be trained by the camp supervisor and the Park staff, during the various projects.
In order to walk the paths safely, it is mandatory to bring along a pair of climbing shoes or trek shows and a medium-sized backpack with large straps. In the mountains, it is always recommended to wear layers of clothes (cotton t-shirt, skirt, plush, K-way) in order to be able to face sudden weather changes that frequently occur in summer. The following is also necessary: fleece or a heavy jumper, wind jacket, beret, hat and sunglasses, gloves, waterproof garments in case of rain.
Participants who come to the camps with inadequate equipment will only be assigned by the camp supervisor tasks to be performed on the valley floor.
Binoculars and a camera are a useful addition to equipment.