Major accolade for Mr. Mournes

Major accolade for Mr. Mournes

31 October 2012

THE man who has been most synonymous with caring for the Mournes has received one of the highest awards in European conservation.

Dr. Arthur Mitchell has become the first person in Northern Ireland or Ireland to receive the Alfred Toepfer Medal for his commitment to the Mournes and to the people who life there.

The award was presented to the former chairman of the Mourne Heritage Trust by EUROPARC, the European Union’s federation of landscape areas, at a gala dinner in Belgium

The commitment of Dr. Mitchell to encouraging local people to take ownership of the Mournes was one of the main reasons he has received the award.

A citation which accompanied the announcement said Dr. Mitchell’s desire to get people participating in a core of community networks across the Mournes has been key to the conservation and development of the area.

“As a General Medical Practitioner in one of Europe’s most beautiful areas, the Mourne Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Dr. Mitchell’s empathy for the local population and his awareness of the connection between people and landscape, led him into being a tireless campaigner for his beloved Mournes,” said the citation.

“In an exemplary way he brought together many different stakeholders from the public and private sphere using his European connections and contacts to foster advocacy for designated areas in his home country.

“As a result, in 2003 Mourne Heritage Trust became the first area in the United Kingdom or Ireland to be awarded the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas (ECST), the prestigious internationally recognised sustainable tourism system of EUROPARC.

Dr. Mitchell also initiated the ground-breaking Mourne Homesteads Scheme, a community based project that encouraged local people and tourists to connect and won renowned awards from the UK Civic Trust and Europa Nostra.

“Dr. Mitchell´s rural development focus culminated in £10m of the EU Peace Fund for Northern Ireland in 2004 being dedicated to sustainable tourism in five high quality landscape areas — a landmark achievement in challenging political circumstances.

Dr. Mitchell has been congratulated on his award by the current chairman of the Mourne Heritage Trust, councillor Dessie Patterson.

“Anyone who has spent time in Arthur Mitchell’s company cannot fail to appreciate not only his vast knowledge and sense of purpose, but also his affection for both the landscape and people of the Mourne area,” he said.

“He has long given outstanding leadership to the Trust and continues to support me and my fellow Board members with his thoughtful advice. I am delighted, as both his colleague and his friend, to hear of this prestigious and well deserved recognition for Arthur’s contribution to caring for Mourne and getting the best possible value out of its special qualities for the community here,” added Mr. Patterson.