Mounting fury as holidaymakers have to pay to access Pyrenees

David Chazan
Some of the most stunning views in France will only be accessible for a fee - Moment RF

A petition against the introduction of fees for entering areas of southern France’s mountainous Pyrenees region favoured by holidaymakers and hikers has gathered more than 20,000 signatures.

From this weekend, adults must pay €6.50 (£5.75) and children €5.50 (£4.85) to visit the Marcadau Valley, a popular site for families and walkers offering an abundance of plant species and wildlife in the Pyrenees National Park.

In April, access to the nearby Néouvielle nature reserve and its lakes will come at the price of €8 per person. The local council said the charge was necessary to fund conservation. 

Several other scenic sites are also now charging for entry including the valleys of the Cirque de Troumouse and Gavarnie.

A mother and daughter trek in the mountains Credit: aluxum/E+

Michel Aubry, the mayor of Cauterets, which borders the Pyrenees National Park, said the new charges stemmed from government demands for local councils “to manage our public spaces like companies” and would mainly be applied to walkers wearing snowshoes and cross-country skiers. 

President Emmanuel Macron is trimming local budgets after implementing tax cuts. Mr Aubry said the fees were justified.

“We’ve got snow groomers, machines that make sure the snow is safe for walking, and patrollers so if people get into difficulty we can help them,” he said. 

Lac d'Ayous, Pic du Midi d'Ossau in background, Ossau Valley, French Pyrenees Credit: Frank van Groen / LOOK-foto

But opposition members of the local council argue that the admission fees breach a French law guaranteeing that “access to natural spaces must be free of charge” unless the site includes marked trails and facilities requiring regular maintenance.

The petition launched 10 days ago by Éric Castaings, a local photographer, demands the scrapping of the new entry fees.

“We do not wish to be forced to dip into our pockets to be able to enjoy our mountains in summer. This pleasure must remain free!” Mr Castaings said:

“We already pay local taxes so there’s no reason why ordinary citizens or tourists should pay these entry fees.”

The Pyrenees are increasingly popular with skiers and holidaymakers seeking an alternative to the French Alps.

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