Meadows of the National natural monument Búrová, with black false hellebore (Veratrum nigrum© VIS Bílé Karpaty

Centralparks in the Czech Carpathians
The Czech Carpathians and their most valuable features

The Czech Carpathians represent only 3% of the total area of the Carpathian mountain system at its westernmost margin, belonging to the Outer Western Carpathians. They cover about 10% of the Czech Republic in several highlands concentrated along the southeastern and eastern borderline. The Czech Carpathians do not have any national parks, but include three protected landscape areas (PLA) – Beskydy, Bílé Karpaty and Pálava. Besides, valuable highlands worth visiting by tourists, are for example the Chřiby Hills, Ždánický les highlands, Litenčická pahorkatina hills, Hostýnské vrchy highlands, and Vizovická vrchovina highlands. 

Moravské kopanice, Bílé Karpaty © David Prachar

Compared to the Central Western, Eastern and Southern Carpathians, the Czech part of the Carpathian mountain range is less mountainous and wild. To illustrate, the highest peaks of the three main protected areas are Lysá hora (1324 m above sea level) in the Moravskoslezské Beskydy Mountains (Beskydy PLA), the highest peak of the Czech Carpathians as a whole, Velká Javořina (970 m above sea level) in the Bílé Karpaty Mountains (Bílé Karpaty PLA) and Děvín (554 m above sea level) in the Pavlovské vrchy Hills (Pálava PLA).

The Czech Carpathians are predominantly characterised by cultural landscapes. Regionally, different types of cultural landscapes have formed due to various factors. The most important ones are the duration and history of human influence, including specific ways of colonisation (German, Wallachian), repeated raids from the east causing the destruction of villages in the south-eastern borderland (mainly during the 17th century), farming methods (planting of different crops, haymaking, pastoralism), small-scale industry and handcrafts. Larger factories and heavy industry are restricted to larger cities, mainly in the foothills in the northeastern part, where they are connected with black coal mining. Most of the regional cultural landscapes typically include a patchwork of settlements, fields, orchards, vineyards, steppes, pastures, meadows and forests.

Dense forest complexes can be found in the main mountain range at the borderline. Here, human activities have been more or less in harmony with nature so far. For this reason, the Bílé Karpaty PLA was also designated as an UNESCO Biosphere Reserve (under the Man and the Biosphere Programme), similarly to the Pálava PLA, which is part of the Lower Morava UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. 

Typical traits of the three PLAs from the natural perspective are:

  • Ancient mountain forests, continuous lynx and wolf presence, pastoralism, and well-maintained mountain villages in the Beskydy PLA
  • Diverse cultural landscapes, ancient meadows with a large number of terrestrial orchids and extraordinary high plant- and insect biodiversity in general, with vast Carpathian oak-hornbeam and beech forests in the Bílé Karpaty PLA
  • Steppes, thermophilous oak forests, limestone rocks, wetlands in the Dyje river floodplain (belonging to the Mokřady dolního Podyjí Ramsar site) in the Pálava PLA.

National Natural Reserve Čertoryje, Bílé Karpaty © VIS Bílé Karpaty

The well-preserved and partly still alive folk culture, including its tangible and intangible cultural heritage elements, is another important aspect of many Czech Carpathian locations. Open-air museums are for example located in Rožnov pod Radhoštěm (Beskydy Mts.), Strážnice (Bílé Karpaty Mts.) and Modrá (Chřiby Hills). In the Pálava PLA, we can find one of the oldest Palaeolithic settlements in the Czech Republic. Here the Věstonice Venus was found, dating back to 24-26,000 BC.

For this reason, tourism in these areas should be well managed to prevent high tourism pressure and damage to valuable natural and cultural heritage sites. Thus, these areas are worth serving as pilot projects and experiments with introducing new, sensitive ways of tourism development, focusing on curious and modest tourists who rather appreciate to be educated and experience in-depth authentic natural and cultural heritage than attend artificial and superficial tourist attractions. 

Naturally, several conflicts of interests exist between aims of economic development and nature and landscape protection, as well as several deterrent examples of insensitive development projects. However, the Czech Carpathians fall under well-established and modern national nature protection, supplemented also by several NGOs with a rather strong position in discussions about future local development. The strong effort of local communities to contribute to sensitive local development and to the preservation of local cultural and natural heritage can be seen on e.g. local projects, museums and collections in many municipalities.

Bílé Karpaty Education and Information Centre

The Bílé Karpaty Education and Information Centre was established in 1997 and has been a strong stakeholder in the field of public relations for the Bílé Karpaty PLA Administration, providing environmental education at schools and raising public awareness of nature protection. Moreover, the Centre has been working on many strategic documents and local projects dealing with tourism and nature protection. 

The Centre has developed many educational programmes for schools about nature protection, environmental issues and pro-environmentally conscious behaviour. It also organises many excursions for youth and the general public, using the heritage interpretation approach. Excursion routes are carefully planned to guide visitors into interesting places and show the values of natural and cultural heritage by also avoiding the most vulnerable places. The Centre also publishes various information materials on the Bílé Karpaty PLA, including books related to its natural and cultural heritage. Worth mentioning is the cooperation on publishing the transboundary journal “Bílé-Biele Karpaty”, which provides local inhabitants with news and facts from both the Bílé Karpaty PLA (Czech Republic) and the Biele Karpaty PLA (Slovakia), as the two PLAs actually form one natural region, although divided by state borders. This year, the Bílé Karpaty PLA commemorates its 40th anniversary.

Within the Centralparks project, the Bílé Karpaty Education and Information Centre works mainly on the first thematic work package, divided into three thematic transnational task forces (TTTFs): biodiversity and landscape conservation, local sustainable tourism development and communication between protected areas and local communities.

Visitor Communication and Management Strategy in the Bílé Karpaty PLA

Recently, a progressive essential strategic document was completed, based on internationally recognized interpretive planning methods used in heritage interpretation by professionals in national parks and heritage sites all over the world: Visitor Communication and Management Strategy in the Bílé Karpaty PLA (2019). It was elaborated by the Bílé Karpaty Education and Information Centre, in cooperation with the Nature Conservation Agency of the Czech Republic, the Czech Union for Nature Conservation and many local stakeholders. It is a basic, conceptual document and instrument of the PLA Administration for the development, management, financing and regulation of tourism. Visitor communication and management strategies are limited to measures within the reach of nature protection institutions and their wide spectrum of partners in the region. This document was based on a participatory process and a number of interviews and round tables with the PLA Administration, stakeholders and inhabitants. It aims at respecting principles of nature protection, local sustainable development and interests of local inhabitants. The document also defines limits to visitor use and tourism-related activities of PLAs by tourists and should help local tourist stakeholders and tourist agencies to find a balance between tourism development and respecting nature and landscape protection as well as the values of the visited sites. 

For more information, click here.

Local guiding in the Bílé Karpaty PLA

Engaging local stakeholders, such as inhabitants and professionals from museums and NGOs in tourist development contributes to the support of local economic development. It also supports the development of responsible and small-scale tourism, going beyond only a superficial perception of natural and cultural values of the area.

Excursion for the public in to the Carpathian oak forests of Jasenová © VIS Bílé Karpaty

Local guides offer excursions to smaller tourist groups. These guides have the possibility to use methodical assistance and supervision by the Bílé Karpaty Education and Information Centre. They can join workshops to learn heritage interpretation skills, marketing, public relations, accounting and more. They also gain a skillset to set up excursions and other kinds of tourist packages following interpretation rules. Guides organise their excursions with respect to nature protection and to the Visitor communication and management strategy in the Bílé Karpaty PLA.

The Bílé Karpaty Education and Information Centre regularly provides methodical help and a series of workshops not only to local guides in the Bílé Karpaty PLA, but also the Beskydy and Pálava PLAs and other regions. Local guiding promotes environmental education and improves the capacity of local communities in tourism development.

In course of the Centralparks project, the Bílé Karpaty Education and Information Centre is developing its pilot activities in the field of ecosystem services and sustainable tourism, focusing mainly on microregion Horňácko.

Carpathian grasslands with early purple orchid (Orchis mascula) © VIS Bílé Karpaty

 

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