STAFF REPORTER THE Balearic Environment ministry is developing a nature trail offer for excursionists by establishing a network of overnight refuges in the forests and mountains of the region's nature reserves.

Apart from following recommended routes, walkers can also camp and enjoy areas especially set aside for outdoor activities. The project has been devised by the ministry to enable people to enjoy the outdoors and take advantage of the Islands' parks which are protected by law. A web page has been set up so that bookings can be made for the refuges through the Internet. Biodiversity director Miquel Ferrà said yesterday that the system aims to improve environmental recreation services for the public.

The project also establishes a government commitment to maintain set standards for the nature trail offer, ensuring the properties and outdoor activity areas are properly maintained and monitored. Ferrà's department is also to ensure that the refuges are of the same traditional style of stone building throughout the national parks. A challenge currently facing the Environment ministry is to see if they can increase the number of properties used for accommodation within the protected territory. They currently manage twelve which are located in the Llevant nature reserve.

Another project of the Environment ministry is being carried out in conjunction with the Tourism industry on Majorca which aims to upgrade the dry stone walking route known in Majorcan as pedra en sec across the Tramuntana mountains.

This historic trail was originally used by pack animals and their drivers but is now being developed as an item of cultural and sporting tourism.