Elzira Maria Bagatin Munhoz

Interpretative trails and its role in the education and environmental sensibilization

Trail is synonym of track, trace, path, rail. Its initial function would be the one of supplying the need of displacement of the populations. Nowadays the trails acquired a new meaning: they are considered an important way of contact with the nature, especially for the urban communities, accomplishing an education role and environmental sensibilization. In this scenario, the simple tracks in the forest, or open roads in the forest, developed for the interpretative trails, understood as courses drawn according to methodologies and specific criteria, in areas of interest (environmental, social or cultural) with attractions that stimulate the users' sensorial or intellectual involvement, in agreement with the objectives intended.
In this picture there is the scenic trails or wilderness trails, those of evident contemplative interest, in areas of significant beauty that can be traveled on foot, by car or by bicycle. Usually these trails are explored for the tourism and leisure, and in the Joinville area, we can mention the Dona Francisca Road.
Another category is the one of the adventure trails, where the attraction is the possibility of activities considered "radicals", assisting specific public and that are of great search nowadays.
The third and main type are the living spaces, courses usually done on foot by an already existent and previously delimited road, in a place that favors the observation of the varied aspects of the natural and men crafted atmosphere (SAUL, 1993). This trail type is more common in natural parks, historical itineraries in the cities and also in the Centers of Studies and Environmental Researches of Univille (CEPAs). The main objective of the interpretative trails is to stimulate the environmental perception and the integration between the man and the nature, contributing to the environmental understanding and the preservation of the natural atmospheres. So, the interpretative trails are pedagogic instruments, with educational character, and they can be: self-interpretative or monitored.
The self-interpretative trails are roads drawn at natural ranch, degraded or no, and serve as explanation of the environment. In these trails there are plates and signals to transmit to the users the wanted message, therefore it is needed more investment in the physical and information structure.
On the other hand the monitored trails arc traveled with attendance of monitors to guide the visitors. They are usually optimized by the use of interpretative existences, educational activities involving games that lead to reflections on the man-nature relationship, and by the use of interpretative milestones (or landmarks). Whatever the category, the interpretative trails are important pedagogic resources, mainly for children and adolescents, besides the fact they are transformer agents and multiplier information, as much as ecological as the valorization of the natural atmospheres, which stimulates the perception, the curiosity and the users' creativity.
Whatever the objective, two principles should be in mind:
a) the trail is always a mean, never an end;
b) every trail in natural area provokes impacts.
With that in mind, it is of extreme importance to choose the best itinerary to implant the trails, looking for minimizing the environmental impact, due to its implantation and use. The same way, it is important to consider the access conditions and the users' comfort, which should be informed regarding the main characteristics or attractions of the trails. Such cares are important, since the trails itself represent a new impact of the man in the nature, so much physical as visual, sound and even smell.
On the other hand, at the same time the trails constitute a mean to channel man's impact and to restrict it to an established and known itinerary, allowing the contact with natural areas in an optimized and controlled way To achieve such control, it is necessary to estimate the potential use of the trail, starting from specific methodologies, and the most used are the Study of the Capacity of Load and the Study of the Acceptable Limit of Exchange - LAC. Both procedures have mean to suggest the amount of people that a place can support, in a certain time, without causing damage to the atmosphere or to the users' satisfaction (CIFUENTES, 1992).
Looking for the best use of the interpretative trails, in its elaboration the following stages should be considered: planning; rising of data and information; land marking and identification of the characteristics; implantation, maintenance and constant monitoring and evaluation of the process.

CIFUENTES, M. Determinación de capacidade de carga turística en áreas protegidas.
Turrialba, Costa Rica: CATIE, 1992. Série Técnica. Informe Técnico n. 194. 22 p.