Mayor closes hiking trails in French Alps over crowding fears

The mayor of a town in the French Alps has closed popular hiking trials after hundreds of people flocked to the area on the Ascension public holiday.

The Chatreuse massif is always a popular hiking spot but Thursday's combination of good weather and a public holiday saw hundreds of cars heading to the area.

Jean-Paul Claret, mayor of Etremont-le-Vieux in the Savoie département, told France Info: “By 10am on Thursday there were already 500 cars parked in the car park and on the roadside.

“If we let it get any higher, we risked a monster traffic jam.”

He ordered the closure of the hiking trails and around 200 cars were turned back in the first hour after the closure.

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Since May 11th when France began to lift its strict lockdown rules, people have been able to travel up to 100km from their home without the need for a permission form and outdoor spaces including forests and – in the green zone – parks have reopened.

Since Thursday was a public holiday for the religious festival of Ascension, many people are following the French tradition to faire le pont (do the bridge) and taking Friday as a day off to create a long weekend.

But as this is the first holiday since lockdown began to be lifted on May 11th, many local authorities in areas popular with visitors have been worried about crowding and large numbers of visitors arriving from other départements.

In northern France, local authorities closed the beaches just days after reopening due to 'unacceptable behaviour'.

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The Savoie département is extremely popular with both tourists and second home owners – thanks to its stunning scenery, ski resorts and winning way with melted cheese dishes – and local authorities brought in extra restrictions during lockdown to prevent an influx of second home owners into the area.



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