Local community workshops in Pieniny National Park
A series of 4 workshops under the common title “Strategy for the protection of biological and landscape diversity outside and inside Pieniny National Park”, organized by the Ekopsychology Society*, was held in Łapsze Niżne (6 September 2021), Czorsztyn (20 September 2021), Szczawnica (21 September 2021) and Krościenko nad Dunajcem (29 September 2021).
What is behind these workshops?
This event marked the next phase of implementation of the Centralparks pilot action in Pieniny National Park, which aimed at testing the efficiency of the draft Carpathian strategy for enhancing biodiversity and landscape conservation outside and inside protected areas. It was elaborated in 2019-2020 under the Centralparks project by the relevant multinational expert group (Thematic Transnational Task Force) established under the Centralparks WPT1, in support for the implementation of the Protocol on conservation and sustainable use of biological and landscape diversity (Bucharest, 2008) to the Framework Convention on the Protection and Sustainable Development of the Carpathians (Kyiv, 2003) at the local and regional level, accordingly to one of the priorities of the current Polish Presidency of the Convention.
The above draft strategy was submitted on 7 July 2021 for the endorsement by the Carpathian Convention. It targets local municipalities, protected area administrations, local and regional level nature conservation and landscape protection agencies, bodies and authorities.
Pieniny National Park
Pieniny National Park, designated in 1932, forms the Polish part of the first European and world’s second transboundary protected area (established only a month later than the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park between Canada and the USA). The intention to designate such a crossborder nature park was inscribed into the Polish-Czechoslovak bilateral agreement, the 1924 ‘Krakow Protocol’. It stipulated “concluding, as soon as possible, a tourist convention” to facilitate the development of tourism in border areas of both above countries, and “a convention on a nature park” establishing areas restricted for the protection of cultural heritage, nature and landscape. Both ideas materialized decades later, with the adoption of the ‘Carpathian Convention’ in 2003, and its thematic Protocol on Sustainable Tourism (Bratislava, 2011).
Another objective of this Centralparks pilot action is to facilitate and support dialogue between the Pieniny National Park administration and the authorities of the 4 local communities located in its buffer zone. This would ensure the integrity of natural habitats and maintain the fragile ecological connectivity between this relatively small protected area (2,371.75 ha) and neighbouring larger natural complexes in the Carpathians. They are increasingly threatened by the rapid residential and recreational housing development in the national park buffer zone (2,653.8 ha). It requires a joint solution of potential land-use conflicts in several ‘problem areas’, successfully identified during the June workshop.
Identifying problems and solutions
54 participants attended the Centralparks 4 workshops in September, including:
- village heads
- municipality mayors
- municipal councilors
- village leaders
- school directors
- employees of municipalities and the Pieniny National Park
- representatives of local entrepreneurs and NGOs.
The purpose of the workshops was to identify possible solutions for mitigating and preventing conflicts between biological/landscape diversity protection and local development. The following problems were identified among the most typical problem situations:
- scattered housing development pattern interfering with wildlife migration corridors
- lack of legal tools for effective construction law enforcement
- still-increasing tourist pressure on fragile mountain ecosystems
- pristine mountain landscapes spoiled by redundant and poorly designed roadside advertisements, as well as newly built settlements
- pressure by large investors and developers on influencing the local spatial and land use planning process.
Special thanks go to the participants of the meetings, who’s presence confirmed the importance of the topics discussed for local communities. In the opinion of the participants, such workshops strengthen the dialogue between the protected area and the individual entities. We would also like to thank the team of experts: Monika Sadowska, Katarzyna Śnigórska, Ewelina Zając. Monika Ochwat-Marcinkiewicz and Zbigniew Niewiadomski were involved in preparing, coordinating, conducting and moderating the workshops on behalf of the Ekopsychology Society.
*Leader of the Centralparks thematic work package No 1 “Integration of biodiversity conservation and sustainable development in the Carpathian Region”