Six national, quasi-national and prefectural natural parks in the disaster-hit Tohoku region will be reorganized into a single national park with trails totaling 350 kilometers in length, according to government sources.
The Environment Ministry will rebuild or repair the six natural parks along the Sanriku coast of Miyagi, Iwate and Aomori prefectures and combine them to form the new national park, tentatively named Sanriku reconstruction national park.
The Great East Japan Earthquake and the subsequent tsunami caused considerable damage to the parks.
The ministry plans to clean up debris left behind by the tsunami and lay out the recreational trails in the new park to revitalize tourism in the region.
It also plans to build evacuation routes from the trails to higher ground as a precaution against a future disaster.
Environment Minister Satsuki Eda has asked the Central Environment Council to study the plan. A panel will begin discussing the plan on Sept. 5 and the council is expected to compile an interim report in March.
The ministry also plans to gather local opinions from a wide range of people by holding several meetings a year. This will be the first time the ministry has played such a role in planning a national park.
The new park will be comprise Rikuchu Kaigan National Park in Iwate and Miyagi prefectures; Tanesashi Kaigan-Hashikamidake prefectural natural park in Aomori Prefecture; and four parks in Miyagi Prefecture–Minami-Sanriku-Kinkasan quasi-national park; Kesennuma prefectural natural park; Kenjosan-Mangokuura prefectural natural park; and Matsushima prefectural natural park.
Under the law, the government has designated 29 national parks as special areas of natural beauty. In certain areas within these parks, which are managed by the ministry, cutting down trees and modifying landscapes are prohibited.
Quasi-national parks have a status similar to that of national parks. They are designated by the ministry and managed by prefectural governments.
According to the ministry’s plan, the trails will start in Matsukawaura prefectural natural park in Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, which is south of the planned new national park.
The trails will stretch north to reach the Tanesashi Kaigan coast in Hachinohe, Aomori Prefecture, and utilize existing roads and trails along the coast.
“We’ll promote ecotourism so visitors can enjoy the natural beauty of the seashore. We also hope to encourage tourism industries in the disaster-hit areas,” a ministry official said.
The ministry will collaborate with local fishing ports to arrange for visitors to view rock formations at sea aboard small fishing boats and visit fisheries facilities.
Along the new trails, shops selling marine products and other local specialties of the Sanriku coast will be set up to assist reconstruction and create jobs in the region.
In preparation for future tsunami, leisure parks will be built in forests on high ground so they can be used as evacuation areas. These evacuation areas will be connected not only to the trails but also to residential areas along the coast.
Expansion of Rikuchu Kaigan National Park already has been discussed, with the Aomori prefectural government asking that the Tanesashi Kaigan coast be included in the park.
Local people also have asked that the national park’s name include the word “Sanriku,” as Sanriku is famous worldwide as one of the world’s three most fertile fishing grounds.
The tsunami swept a large amount of debris into the sea, damaging the seabed, and onto offshore areas, so the ministry was considering designating some sea areas as marine parks to preserve biodiversity.