In addition to the seven municipalities involved in the project, the municipality of As Somozas was also expected to participate, but finally withdrew from the initiative. Thus, the territory was left with 630 square kilometers of surface area and slightly more than 28,000 inhabitants distributed in 57 parishes and 1,211 population entities. The whole area is characterized by the constant loss of inhabitants, by an economic fabric that looks to agriculture and the sea in the northern territories and that has a certain dependence on the industrial poles of Ferrol, Narón and As Pontes in the southeastern municipalities. The strategies associated with the project also seek a diversification of economic activity and the planned use of endogenous resources and innovation, but always without losing sight of sustainability.
The geographical scope of the Cape Ortegal Geopark Project is located north of the province of A Coruña (Galicia, Spain) and is defined by the limits of the municipalities of Cariño, Cedeira, Cerdido, Moeche, Ortigueira, San Sadurniño and Valdoviño. They are approximately 630 km2 of territory that in the northern area are part of the Geological Complex of Cape Ortegal, extensively studied by specialized science since the mid-twentieth century.
The area -especially that located to the north of the geographical scope of the project- is the result of the process of the Variscan Orogeny 350 million years ago, something we talked about in more detail in the Geology section. The fact is that 52 Sites of Geological Interest have been catalogued in our territory, of which at least 6 are of international relevance. This is due to the presence of rocks and unique formations produced by the slow process of birth and subsequent disappearance of the great Variscan mountain range and by the movement of the tectonic plates of the planet that still continues today.
The peculiarity of this area lies in the fact that here are on the surface rocks that are usually found in the mantle of the Earth, more than 70 kilometers deep. The geological science has in the Ortegal a great field to investigate and increase its knowledge about the changes and moments that the planet has lived for millions of years.
Now, with the Cape Ortegal Geopark Project the aim is to expand this knowledge outside specialized circles. The aim is to make the geological substratum known and valued first of all by the 28,300 inhabitants of the seven municipalities involved, but also to become a disclosure and tourist reference for people from the rest of the world, whether they are specialists in the field or lovers of living different experiences. Or both.
The geological heritage, the natural and landscape heritage, the tangible and intangible cultural heritage -constructions, traditions, gastronomy, etc.- are closely linked within the project, since, although geology is the starting point, the objective pursued is to achieve a sustainable development in the territory where all these aspects are related and coordinated under the umbrella of the Cape Ortegal Geopark.
One of the most valued aspects for the achievement of the UNESCO Geopark seal is that the nominations are built from the bottom up, that is, that they are born from the social initiative and then, once the declaration is obtained, it is the population who plays a leading role in its operation.
In the case of the Cape Ortegal project, we have come a long way in this direction. Who proposed the idea of turning our area into a geopark was the Asociación de Amigos do Parque Xeolóxico do Cabo Ortegal. This entity was created in 2015, although it had already been operating as a collective for some time before, organizing outings and routes to discover the landscape and geological peculiarities of the Cape Ortegal Complex. In collaboration with the geologist Francisco Canosa and the City Council of Cedeira, the association was the first to be concerned about the massive dissemination of the geological heritage of the area and to propose sustainable development models based on geotourism. This work was complemented in late May 2015 with a meeting with the mayors of the seven municipalities seeking greater institutional involvement in the project.
From that moment on it was the town councils who championed the initiative, until in 2018 an Intermunicipal Community was created between the municipalities themselves and the Diputación de A Coruña, who provided funding for the start of the technical development of the project. The Community was configured as an entity without its own structure chaired every two years by each of the municipalities.
The next step to underpin the candidacy is the creation of a non-profit association formed by the seven municipalities that will be the ultimate responsible for everything related to the project and in charge of the fulfilment of the strategy. The objectives of the “Association for the management of the Cape Ortegal Geopark” are the following:
The administrative work to provide the project with an operational structure has been accompanied by other actions that respond to a greater or lesser extent to the requirements set by UNESCO to validate any candidacy, including the fact that the whole area is already functioning as a geopark even before obtaining the qualification.
Thus, in the communication section, the project has been provided with a visual brand that identifies the initiative and summarizes the transversality of the objectives: geology, sea, countryside, tourism, culture, etc.
Another essential endorsement for the candidacy are the actions related to both dissemination and social participation. That is the reason why, since 2015, the municipalities of the project have promoted georoutes through their respective territories and why talks and meetings have been organized with the social fabric of the whole area with two purposes: to enhance the knowledge of the geological resources and to encourage the support and involvement of the population as an active agent in its dynamization.
On the other hand, the bodies in charge of filtering the two-year path through which any area aspiring to become a geopark passes also especially value that the promoters of the candidacy participate in forums and activities at national or international level, and even organize their own.
This work axis has been put into practice withvisits to other world geoparks, such as the Geoparkea of the Basque Coast, the Sobrarbe Geopark (Huesca) or the Las Loras Geopark in Burgos, where Cape Ortegal participated in the V Open Days of the Spanish Geoparks Forum. In addition, in June 2019 the I Conference on the Cape Ortegal Geopark Project was also organized, which programmed reports from other geoparks and tables of social participation in which to contribute ideas and proposals that should be included in the project strategies.