GENEVA -- No longer a city-state in the traditional 19th century sense, Geneva is increasingly recognized as the metropolitain hub for a transnational regional entity involving both Switzerland and France. Particularly since the advent of Schengen, growing numbers of people, not only French and expatriate, but also Swiss, are living on one side of the frontier and working in the other. While the arrangement has produced numerous positive elements, such as the dismantling of passport controls and employment restrictions, it has also brought new problems, notably increased traffic, pollution, construction, and crime. This steady expanding of the Lake Geneva region accentuates the urgent need for a more longerterm and visionary action plan for the future that not only allows intelligent urban development but also respects the countryside. Essential Edge writer Michael Reyburn introduces two exciting information tools (www.campagnon.ch ) and (www.espace-terroir.ch ) designed to help better appreciate the Geneva countryside. But they also serve as imaginative and down-to-earth examples of what needs to be implemented regionally by local authorities, residents and private sector on both sides of the 1818 border posts.
Guillaume Lambert’s brainchild: Le Campagnon
Most people assume that Geneva is an urban canton of downtown areas, apartment block suburbs and once quiet villages breaking out into sprawling villa and semi-detached housing estates or lotissements. The reality, however, is that more than half of its land area is agricultural and forest. It is also Switzerland’s second largest wine-growing area.
Geneva is metamorphosing into a regional hub with a denser network of transport but it is imperative to understand that Genevans are also trying to create a balance between urban and rural, a comfortable and idyllic cadre de vie where local produce is promoted, village life is idealized and agricultural land is protected. This explains why development seems to be concentrated in already-dense areas and building a tunnel or bridge across the lake is unlikely, as its planned traffic would disrupt some of the more pristine and bucolic rural communities on the Rive Gauche.
I am taking this opportunity to present a website (www.campagnon.ch) - a fusion of campagne (countryside) and compagnon (companion) - which has the potential to change your view of Geneva and how to appreciate it. It’s a website that cannot be ignored. Designed by Genevan Guillaume Lambert, it boasts a cutting-edge technology and user-friendly approach that have made my travels into Geneva’s countryside so much easier and more fulfilling. Beautiful days are here again and there are a lot of things to do and see in this countryside.
I meet up with Lambert at the Chateau de Prangins overlooking the Route du Lac on the way to Lausanne outside Nyons. Over coffee, he explains to me how his one-stop, nifty and fun-to-use website gives a detailed idea of how to enjoy Geneva’s incredibly varied and beautiful countryside. Geneva wouldn’t be Geneva without its rural landscape. Lambert has painstakingly criss-crossed the whole canton, explored its every corner and has created something unique: a platform to inform everyone who is interested in what this canton has to offer outside its urban areas.
Le campagnon has it all. By clicking on a category which interests you, you have the most up to date information you need. For example, it contains information on market days and where to go for the best seasonal produce. Lambert also has created a map based on the most pertinent information found on the site. It took Lambert a year and a half to make the first map. He began by studying all that can be shown on a map. First, it was vineyards, farms, camping, nature trails, and beaches. He later added picnic areas, fauna observatories, viewpoints, table d’hôtes, bed and breakfasts, biking routes etc. He called up everyone that is on the map to make sure the information is accurate.
The first map was created in 2005, but since then, he has produced three more editions. There is also new map for 2009. Maps can now be found at Migros, the Cantonal Bank of Geneva, the Genève Tourisme arcade and the Transports Public Genevois and I encourage you to get one.
Lambert came back from Paris where he had studied the Green Belt which surrounds it and how this area was being promoted as the first choice for Parisians who want to get closer to nature. He noticed that people in Geneva weren’t aware of their immediate area. Nothing much was being done to give it a more visible and dynamic approach. Geneva’s fascinating backcountry is easily accessible but instead of working together, actors in the tourism, agriculture and nature sectors did not exchange information, so this map and website has become a godsend for anyone who wants to understand and explore the area.
Lambert’s task was to make all these actors participate, match them up and become networked. He still thinks that there is a lack of coordination between different entities to do things in common, think in common on the future of the region and how to exploit its resources. He thinks Geneva lags behind most French cities, which have a strong centralized approach.
I am astonished that this map is the principal document on Geneva’s countryside and on local food producers. There was certainly a need for it. Often, he explains, when people don’t know what’s available, they won’t bother to explore by themselves. Mentalities are changing little by little, proximity is the new maître mot and the map promotes a softer mobility approach (walking trails, bus stops, bicycle routes). Local tourism is growing and has become a trend. Geneva’s wines have come a long way in the last 15 years, and this has encouraged urbanites to explore their own local backyard.
The beauty of this exhaustive document is that it’s free information on leisure but Lambert concedes that it was difficult to convince the partners and the project had to be financed by public aid and advertising.
In Geneva, le Campagnon was a premier pas, a first step for Lambert. This mapmaking and website designing has allowed Lambert to meet many local producers.
His current project is to establish an online shop of local produce from the terroir, and to deliver baskets to homes in the Geneva area. The website is called www.espace-terroir.ch . Anyone interested in seeking locally-grown fruits and vegetables delivered to your door at a good price (2 people per week (24.90 CHF) 3-4 people per week (34.90 CHF) should check out this site. There is room for more visibility and a promotion of the terroir and espace-terroir wants to fill this need because all the products sold come from the local environment.
Michael Reyburn is a Geneva-based Canadian writer.
For more information on this project, please go to:
Mobilidee - Solutions de mobilite
Avenue du Mail 1, 1205 Genève
Tel: 022 566 72 33
Fax: 022 321 23 74
Chef de projet : Guillaume Lambert
Réalisation web : La souris magique