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Most Beautiful Village in Europe is Sustainable Too!

AustriaIn less than a century, the prizewinning Austrian Alpine village of Lech, has changed from being a mountain farming community into a tourist centre of international repute, without losing its unmistakable character as a parish of the Walser region. In contrast to many other tourist areas, Lech has been able to maintain the atmosphere of a small village settlement. In terms of tourism, Lech wants to maintain its exclusive touch by following the maxim of ess is more, especially if it is of high quality This also includes the conscious fostering of an independent tradition, a culture of hospitality and an attractive home with its healthy way of life and unique qualities. Its conomic spacealso has to be its inhabitant iving space To this end, there is a range of regulations, guidelines and principles that the municipality of Lech has implemented for decades.

The following are Lech contribution to sustainability in tourism and living

Biomass heating plant

The plant is used for producing hot water from the renewable energy source of biomass, and currently supplies 223 customers (mostly hotels and guest- houses) via a 17,500m heating network. Below the forecourt, on which bark is stored, are two fuel bunkers with a storage capacity of 5,000 m3, which are operated by automatic crane systems. Approximately 65,000 cubic metres of wood chips and bark, which come exclusively from the local sawmill and timber industry, are burned annually. This allows approximately 4 million litres of oil to be substituted every year and guarantees a sustainable improvement in air quality as well as a sustainable strengthening of the local economy.

Tunnel system

In 1995, the residents of Oberlech decide to install an underground tunnel system to handle supplies to and from the village. The first stage of construction took place in early summer 1995, with the main tunnel being opened in autumn 1995. The first underground supplies took place in December 1995. The remaining work on the tunnels and the transfer station were completed in autumn 1996. The return station and approach tunnel were built in summer 1997. The tunnels measure a total of 770 metres, and have 10 sluices and 8 emergency exits. The approach tunnel is 300 metres long. The transfer stations have a total surface area of more than 3,200 m2and cost approximately 8.5 million. The Oberlech tunnel system is a unique type of construction and cannot be found at any other European tourist destination.

Local bus

The Lech local bus service entered into service on 28 June 1997 with 4 buses and two routes. Today, 11 buses ply the 6 routes and carry over 1.2 million passengers per year. Whether operating as the ski bus in winter or hiking bus in summer, it is impossible to picture Lech and Z?rs without the lue fleet Buses specially constructed for Lech enable a special type of mobility. In winter, the district bus goes as far as Rauz, and in summer as far as Hochkrumbach in the neighbouring district of Warth. During the night hours, the busservice amespicks up those who need to get around. The Lech local bus is a real alternative to using private cars; it contributes actively to a significant reduction in pollution, and traffic levels have been cut drastically since it entered service.

Spring water from the Tap

Lech spring water, particularly the water taken from the source of the Schwarzbach in the Zugertal, has a number of distinctive features. What other people bottle as mineral water, comes out of the tap in Lech. The nitrate content of Lech water is more than 20 times lower than the EU drinking water limit
of 25 mg/l. According to detailed research, the Schwarzbach spring water also contains ideal levels of important minerals such as calcium, magnesium and sulphates. This is backed up many other facts, such as the delicious Gut spring water from Lech, which is deliberately used as drinking water thanks
to its extremely high quality. It is a unique part of the residentsLech home.

Botanical garden

The botanical garden of the municipality of Lech has been in operation for almost 30 years. Many types of local plants are for the most part nurtured at the Lech botanical garden in their own seed beds for 2 to 3 years, then pricked out and later potted up for distribution. Besides the reforestation projects, plants are also supplied to institutions such as the Mountain Torrent and Avalanche Barrier. Many locals also use trees from the seed garden in their gardens and forecourts. In 2004, an impressive 5,738 plants were taken from the stock and cultivation of the botanical garden and planted throughout the district.

Ski lifts and the environment

The first ski lifts were thought up in western Arlberg towards the end of the 1930s and installed without having to cut down any trees. This is a principle that still applies today. Based on the ski lifts at Lech, worldwide exemplary research programs and practical applications have been thought up, initiated
and implemented. Lech takes a special interest in using its alpine environment responsibly and having a proactive environment policy based on prevention. Projects such as the greening of high altitude locations, fertilization, soil stabilising, reforestation and our own environment management system
show just how important our dealings with nature are.

Fostering Local Culture,

The village community and the life of the association are very important in Lech. Lech is, after all, the living space for its own population. The same is true for its young, its families and its older people. Lech associations are very important for retaining its village culture. They foster traditions, offer work to the young and give many locals the opportunity to participate actively in the community.

Lech, with its population of 1,400, has a total of 22 associations; proof that village life in the municipality is alive and well! the rachtenkappele the traditional costume band of lech was founded in 1927, and currently has around 45 members. Church occasions and official events take place against a background of music. More than a third of all members are under the age of 18; these young people meet once a week to make music together. The traditional costume association of Lech has set itself the aim of fostering and maintaining the traditional Walser costume. Much of the association work has to do with making new costumes according to historical guidelines.

Lech Music School provides a musical education which makes an important contribution to the formation of an individual personality and provides a stimulus for living together in harmony within the community.

The Arlberg ski club is a local association with a rich tradition. It was founded in 1901 and has helped to write the history of skiing in the Alps. The world first skiing course was held on the Arlberg, the first ski school was founded here, and Lech is the only place in the world that has produced four Olympic winners in the alpine sport of downhill skiing. Names such as Trude Jochum Beiser, Othmar Schneider, Egon Zimmermann, Patrick Ortlieb, Gerhard Nenning, Marianne Jahn
are omnipresent in the world of sport skiing.

Valere Tjolle

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