UNESCO representatives visited the Burgas Governor, Mr. Konstantin Grebenarov, to familiarize him with the results from the International workshop held in Tsarevo during the last days. More than 60 persons became involved in the workshop and learned about biosphere parks in Europe and whether Strandja is a suitable region for designation of such a park. The experience of Slovenia, Austria, Germany, Turkey and Greece shared during the seminar showed us that this concept is aimed mainly toward man and man’s harmonious coexistence with surrounding nature. And while protected areas conserve mainly biodiversity, biosphere parks and reserves are focused mainly on humans and on the promotion of their own potential for sustainable development.
The Wienerwald Biosphere Park includes part of Vienna and is crossed by a highway. The nomination of the Island of Samothraki (Greece) has been submitted to the UNESCO office and its revision and approval are forthcoming. Of particular interest was the example of Rhön (Germany) – an area similar to Strandja, where the region owes its successful development to the Biosphere Reserve. The participants found the presentations made by the Strandja Nature Park Directorate and the Tsarevo Municipality very interesting. Unfortunately, the Malko Tarnovo Municipality failed to become involved in the international initiative and did not wish to present its opportunities and problems.
The third day of the seminar was dedicated to acquainting of the participants with the potential of the Strandja Nature Park and with presentation of some of its most interesting areas, villages and centres. The Tsarevo Municipality presented fire-walking custom in the Village of Bulgari, included in 2009 in the List of UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. The Strandja Park Directorate demonstrated its most recent and not yet officially opened visitor centre in the Village of Gramatikovo, presenting the park habitats and the rare plant species residing in the park. The participants visited also the Information Centre of the Directorate in Malko Tarnovo. Most exciting was the visit to the Village of Brushlyan where the attractive folklore program and the inclusion of the guests in it has left unforgettable memories in each one of them.
What are the conclusions after these three active days – Strandja has the potential to be designated as Bulgaria’s first biosphere park of a new generation. The preserved nature, the preserved traditions and customs, the unique connection of the sea and the mountain are only a part of the advantages of the region. However, it is important to conduct a large-scale awareness campaign among the local people because all this can happen only with their common will. The experts made a wonderful proposal that we should talk about the designation of a biosphere REGION instead of using RESERVE, a word laden with certain fears, or park which overlaps with the already existing park. It is important to consider also the inclusion of new territories such as the Sredets and Primorsko Municipalities, which are not part of the Strandja Park. Working in groups to discuss the benefits from a future biosphere park and the collaborative management structure proved of particular interest. These and other issues are part of the important forthcoming discussion with all stakeholders in the region.
Having become aware of the Biosphere Park Concept and with the meaning of the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Program, the Burgas Regional Governor expressed his support for the idea and promised to cooperate as a Regional Administrator.
The workshop was organised with the financial support of UNESCO Venice Office and is part of the BBF project: “Collaboration for Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Local Development in Strandja Mountain in Bulgaria”, supported by a grant from Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein through the EEA Financial Mechanism.