The Reserve Geologique de Haute-Provence is located in the Alpes de Haute-Provence and Vardpartements of southeastern France. Its centre is the little town of Digne-les-Bains, approximately 150 kilometres north of Nice and 800 km south of Paris.
This region corresponds to the northern part of Provence, where it meets the Alps, an upland area with altitudes ranging from 400 to 2960 metres. The result is a great diversity of natural environments with the lowest lying areas in the wine and olive-growing zones and the highest peaks in the Alpine level.
The Haute-Provence Geological Reserve is situated in the external part of the Occidental Alpes: at the border between the domain of southern subalpine chains affected by middle-scale overthrusting with a generally South vergence and the limestone Provence, whose tectonic evolution is a result of early phases and which is less affected by alpine orogenesis per se.
The main activities are centred on agriculture (sheep-raising, in particular, which plays an important part in landscape conservation) and tourism. The tourism is focused on leisure, nature and culture, with the mineral springs and spa playing an important role in Digne-les-Bains. These two pillars also support services and crafts, but there is no industry on the territory.
The Haute-Provence Natural Geological Reserve comprises 18 listed sites according to the 1976 Environmental Protection Act. These 18 sites represent 665 acres; they are surrounded by a protection zone which covers the whole of the territory's 55 districts, that is to say a little over 2000 square km. In this immense open-air museum, fossil extraction is prohibited. Also, within the perimeter of the listed sites more strict regulations prevail, prohibiting among other things,the collection of naturally free-lying objects.
However, in order to allow scientists to continue their research and for amateurs to carry out their hobby, certain dispensations are provided allowing limited and controlled sampling within the protected zones with the exception of the protected sites.
Three itineraries follow the territory's most secret trails, linking highly varied sites. While some concern fossils and tectonic or sedimentary outcrops, others evoke history, landscapes and vegetation. Thus, the geological heritage, far from being isolated, finds its full depth in explaining what can be seen at each turn in the road, at each new step visitors take. These itineraries are linked to the territory's museums: Muse-Promenade (Digne-les-Bains), Muse Sirnes et Fossiles (Castellane) and Maison de la Geologie (Barles). Their vocation is not to supplant visits to the Reserve Geologique but rather to prepare visitors by allowing them to marvel and obtain far more detailed information than they would normally be able to obtain from nature; they organize activities and exhibitions.
Information centres are open to the public to provide complete information on the surrounding heritage, starting with the geological heritage. The staff of more than sixty centres receive regular information and training.
The Reserve Geologique de Haute-Provence has chosen to open its territory to contemporary art. Since Prehistoric times, humans have found artistic inspiration in nature, using natural materials to express this need. While urban civilization seems to have influenced some artists to turn away from nature, the Land Art movement has drawn many of them back.
The Reserve Geologique has made a major educational effort in the area of Earth Sciences. Discovering geological heritage and teaching geology in nature is infinitely more profitable than classroom teaching. Consequently, several thousand schoolchildren flock to the Reserve Geologique every year, to both the museums and the territory, which offer activities and actions tailored for each level.
For over twenty years, the local population has grown progressively more aware of this exceptional aspect of their heritage. Two decades ago, geology interested only a few amateurs; today, it has become an integral part of daily life for the inhabitants of the Reserve Geologique territory.
Géoparc de Haute Provence
M. Guy MARTINI
10 montée Bernard Dellacasagrande
04005 Digne les Bains cedex
Tél : 00 33 4 92 36 70 70
E-mail : email@example.com