A sustainable tourism development operation
Restoring the Mont-Saint-Michel's maritime character is a long-term operation. Its studies were launched in 1995 and work began in 2005; it will be completed in 2015. It is part of a higher ambition: to profoundly restore the landscape which provides a setting for one of the key locations of Humanity and to renew the approach to the site, in the spirit of its crossings.
The Mont-Saint-Michel stands in a bay with a remarkable landscape and ecosystem. This site with its rare beauty has been rewarded with two entries on the Unesco list of world heritage sites (1979). Its international reputation is founded on this exceptional dimension. Its architectural prowess and its exceptional harmony with the bay, which were so dear to its creators, are timeless.
But this masterpiece is now under threat. Sediment has built up more and more around the Mont over the years as humans have intervened: land reclamation, creation of the causeway, construction of the dam with flood tide gates and so on. Gradually the sea has been pushed back and land and salt marshes have taken over. A fifteen hectare car park at the base of the ramparts has been stripping away the site's natural landscape for over fifty years.
Without doubt, the people who came before us helped to accelerate this natural sand encroachment phenomenon. But the people who are around today have decided to use the natural power of the tide to counter it. Europe, the French Government and local authorities in Brittany and Normandy have decided to act together to ensure that this treasure of Humanity remains a monument desired and preserved for future generations to come.
Giving the Mont its share of the tides:
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THE MONT-SAINT-MICHEL BY 2025
International experts are categoric. If nothing is done, by 2040 sand will build up once and for all around the Mont-Saint-Michel, which will be surrounded by salt marshes. This transformation will sweep away once and for all the spirit that was the driving force behind the people who built the abbey.
To avoid this, since 2009 a new dam has been using the combined forces of tide and river water. The results can already be seen around the Mont and are confirmed by regular scientific measurements. Clearing the Couesnon’s channel and returning water to the Moidrey cove will increase the river’s hydraulic capacity and regulated flush power.
In 2014/2015 this reclaiming of the strand will also require the 15 hectares of the current maritime car park to be returned to their natural state, along with the causeway which links the rocky island to the continent and which has been blocking tidal currents for nearly 130 years.
The sediment will be pushed out to the sea by tidal waters and the Couesnon. The Mont will regain its maritime dimension for many years to come.
Achievements at the project’s halfway point:
• 2009 > The construction of the dam over the Couesnon, officially launched by the French Prime Minister in June 2006, is complete. This work, which is the cornerstone of the project’s hydraulic aspect, began to remove sand from around the rock in May 2009. The public service delegation for visitor parking and transport was also awarded at the start of autumn 2009.
•2010-2011 > These years saw the start of the reception work (landscaped car park, reception and service buildings) and access work for the Mont (pedestrian footbridge and causeway from 2011) enabling a completely new approach to the rock. These years also marked the start of the hydraulic developments upstream and downstream of the dam (2011-2015) which will restore the Couesnon’s hydraulic capacity to move sediment away from the rock.
•2012 > The new car park on the continent and the public transport shuttles are commissioned to bring visitors to the Mont.
•2014 > The pedestrian footbridge is open to visitors, pedestrians and shuttles, but also logistics (outside busy periods) and the Mont's permanent security services.
•2015 > More symbolically still, the operation is completed with the destruction of the causeway, which is over 100 years old (1879), which brings visitors from the continent to the Mont. The works to restore the Mont-Saint-Michel’s maritime character are then complete. It will then take a few years for a wide strand to form around the rock and for the Mont to regain its full maritime landscape for many years to come.
The Mont-Saint-Michel remains open to visitors during the works.