The Beersheba "ring trail," a 42km hiking trail and Israel's only city-encompassing path, won third place in the European Travelers' Association's annual environmental competition, Ynet learned Sunday.
The Society for Protection of Nature in Israel and the Committee for Israel's Hiking Trails, which planned the pathway, were named the recipients of the award.
The path goes through various historical and heritage sites, parks and observatories, but those were only a part of the reasons that helped it win the prestigious honor – it won mostly because of the urban-environmental model on which it was based.
The contest looked as various hiking trails that mesh together elements of the environment, leisure and social activities, and found the Beersheba trail to possess an "inspiring combination."
The idea for the trail came about in 2007, when teens participating in the SPNI's scouts program accidently came across Byzantine ruins on the outskirts of the city, during one of their navigation exercises.
The children and the local SPNI office decided to preserve the site, and the latter took the endeavor a step further and set out to link together all the sites surrounding Beersheba.
To that effect, the Society for Protection of Nature in Israel formed a round-table panel with the City of Beersheba, the Israel Nature and National Parks Service, the Jewish National Fund, the Antiquities' Authority and the Committee for Israel's Hiking Trails.
The panel's main focus when deciding on the trail's path was both to maintain the area's ecosystems and biodiversity, while ensuring all parts of it were accessible to the public.
The plan aimed to both preserve the existing environmental elements as well as set clear lines for future urban development in the area; as the path's planning considered future building projects and planned the trail to mesh in and around them.
The hiking trail was also teamed with a biking trial, that runs parallel to most of it.
The trail was initially marked in 2008 and was included in Israel's hiking maps in 2011. In 2012, it was officially inducted by Beersheba Mayor Ruvik Danilovich.
Prof. Adi Wolfson is Head of the Chemical Engineering Department at SCE College of Engineering