Operation Grand Site

Preserving Montségur and our landscapes

Preserving our remarkable heritage sites is essential. They bear witness to our history and are part of our landscape. Today, the fortress of Montségur and its surrounding area are at the heart of a major initiative to obtain the Grand Site de France label.

Montsegur Project GrandMontsegur Project Grand
©Montsegur Project Grand

Becoming a Grand Site de France

Aware of the beauty and richness of its territory, the Communauté de Communes du Pays d’Olmes (pôle projets) encouraged by the services of the DREAL Occitanie submitted in July 2016 its application to engage in an Opérations Grand Site de France (OGS). In November 2016, the French Minister for the Environment, Madame Ségolène Royal, gave her approval for the launch of the Opération Grand Site Montségur.

At the same time, since 2017, the fortress of Montségur has been a candidate for UNESCO World Heritage listing as part of the process initiated by the Aude department with the Cité de Carcassonne and its sentinel mountain castles . This international initiative feeds into the Opération Grand Site, reinforcing their actions and pooling certain projects and protective perimeters.

But what is an Opération Grand Site?

This is the approach used to obtain the Grand Site de France label, which rewards areas that carry out projects to restore and manage some of the most prestigious and popular heritage sites. The challenge is to preserve, enhance and sustainably manage these major, emblematic sites, which attract large numbers of tourists and which, as a result, require special attention to respect their environment and ensure their long-term survival.

In addition to Montségur, this operation involves several communes:

  • Montségur, Montferrier, Bénaix, Bélesta, Fougax-et-Barrineuf, Prades (Ariège) and Comus (Aude).

TheGorges de la Frau (listed site), the Réserve Biologique Intégrale, the Fontestorbes intermittent fountain (listed site) and the Gouffre des Corbeaux. The Monts d’Olmes resort and Roquefixade will also be included in the project.

Good to know

The exemplary implementation of the OGS project has been rewarded with the Grand Site de France label. This label recognizes the sustainable management and exemplary preservation of the site. It is awarded for eight years.

At the end of this period, a new project is drawn up to build on the previous one. The Grand Site de France label is thus a long-term commitment.

Actions underway

The diagnostic work to lay the foundations for the OGS action program, carried out in 2018-2019, involved a multidisciplinary team represented by Alain Quiot, landscape designer for TerreHistoire, an architect specializing in territorial and participative animation, an agricultural engineer, a naturalist, tourism engineers and a consultant specializing in public service. Priorities were set:

  • Reopen overgrown areas ;
  • Reduce the impact of industrial activity on the landscape;
  • Minimize the impact of roads on the landscape;
  • Structuring and upgrading the region’s tourist industry;
  • Coordinating stakeholders to preserve and enhance the area.

10 of the 37 actions selected are top priorities, as they are a prerequisite for obtaining the label. Efforts will therefore be concentrated initially on the 2 axes:

Improving reception and visitor flow management: 5 actions

1/ Reception (reception building) and landscaping of parking lots

2/ Structuring reception facilities for the Grand Site / Montségur project: museum and Grand Site house

3/ Upgrade the listed Fontestorbes fountain site – north-east entrance

4/ Upgrade the SAB wasteland at Montferrier – west entrance

5/ Draw up a landscape plan

Preserve and raise awareness of landscape and biodiversity issues: 5 actions

6/ Discover, explore and walk on the Grand Site (definition of a territorial hiking plan, maintenance, signposting, etc.)

7/ Federate a network of socio-professional players to enhance their activities and promote the values of the Grand Site.

8 / Structuring and coordinating an educational center around Grand Site issues

9/ Create the Maison des Paysages, a branch of the Maison du Grand Site

10/ Draw up and implement a communication plan for the Grand Site