On Sunday, a dream that Murat Demirci, a resident of southwest Turkey, has worked so hard on making a reality will manifest into a potential haven for cyclists, hikers, and nature lovers at large. That's when an elaborate network of trails opens up for the general public that will link pedestrial and two-wheel traffic to other parts of the region.
“The primary focus of the trails is on the region’s rich ecosystem, including a complex structure of lagoons, lakes, wetlands, rivers, beaches, sweetgum forests, and endemic and/or endangered species, which are under protection," said Demirci, who wanted an environmentally friendly way of exposing visitors to the natural splendor of his home turf in the province of Muğla.
"As the region is Turkey’s first official special protection area, I thought trails here should promote eco-tourism and allow users to enjoy hiking and cycling amid relatively untouched nature.”
An avid outdoorsman, Demirci has spent roughly two years designing and creating the paths with a bit of help from others in the area, with additional funding from the Turkish government. Dubbed the ECO Trails to focus on the environmental aspect of the project, the paths connect such municipalities as Dalaman, Köyceğiz, and Ortaca. While many of them eventually hook up with more arterial passages like the Carian Trail to the west and the Lycian Way, much of the work in creating these paths had to be done from scratch.
Major routes include access to the mountains, coastline and other parts of Muğla's interior, with foot and bike traffic getting access to such points of interest as the Dalyan Delta and İztuzu Beach. Strategically marked along the trails are signs pointing to destinations as well as a color coding system for the type of traffic allowed. Hikers go on paths marked in yellow, while bikers hit trails identified in red. Additional markers indicate easy versus difficult routes.
Although the official opening ceremony takes place on İztuzu Beach this Sunday, not all of the work on the ECO Trails is complete. There are still a few hiking trails that have yet to be finished, although all the biking paths are ready to go. The English version of the ECO Trails website isn't slated to be up until late November. And there's still the matter of getting the guidebook and smartphone app operational before the end of October, as well as getting all the info regarding the project to Wikiloc, a site that displays GPS trail-sharing info to its users.
For tourists, don't expect a plethora of services along the routes. The ECO Trails website does recommend that those hitting the paths bring their own supplies, including extra clothes, at least a liter of water, enough food for a venture on the trails, a first aid kit, and a small pocketknife.