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AROUND SLOVAKIA

National park Slovak Paradise celebrates half-centenary

SLOVAK Paradise (Slovenský raj in Slovak) is an area in the east of Slovakia that has become a popular tourist destination and a true paradise for hikers and nature lovers. By the end of September, it celebrated 50 years since it was pronounced a national park (NP) reserve.

SLOVAK Paradise (Slovenský raj in Slovak) is an area in the east of Slovakia that has become a popular tourist destination and a true paradise for hikers and nature lovers. By the end of September, it celebrated 50 years since it was pronounced a national park (NP) reserve.

Due to this, an international conference took place in Čingov, near Spišská Nová Ves on September 26, attended by almost 200 experts. Its goal was to evaluate the 50 years of environmental protection of this area.

Slovak Paradise was the first protected big area in Slovakia after the Tatra National Park that has been protected from the agricultural point of view, head of the NP Slovak Paradise administration, Tomáš Dražil, said for the TASR newswire.

“Our effort is aimed at unique natural values of this area to be preserved, while also making them accessible for visitors to a sensible extent,” head of the State environmental Protection (ŠOP) Milan Boroš added. According to him, ŠOP has a long-term goal of explaining the environmental protection, which can be done in two ways: through the activity of the Slovak Caves’ Administration; and also through collaboration with organisations active at the national park. New protected localities may be opened in Slovak Paradise, Boroš said, or even new caves, so that the attendance is distributed more evenly.

A huge success in the past 50 years had been the fact that the area was pronounced as protected at all, Dražil stressed, praising also good communication among all organisations and people who operate here. Dražil also pointed to the low rate of development in this territory. In spite of the vivid tourism, the protectionists and NP administration managed to protect Slovak Paradise from the pressure to build up infrastructure as witnessed in High or Low Tatras.

Slovak Paradise was announced a protected area on August 21, 1964, and in 1988, it was re-categorised as a national park. The zone of protection makes up almost 20,000 hectares; i.e. more than a half of the total area.

Typical phenomena of this landscape include plateaus, deep canyons, ravines and gorges, waterfalls, surface karst features and attractive underground spaces with stalactites and stalagmites, as well as ice decorations.

There are 630 discovered caves here, more than 33 kilometres of underground tunnels, some of which are accessible. Perhaps the most famous cave is the Dobšiná Ice cave, which belongs among the most unique globally. About 400,000 to 600,000 people visit this area annually, while the most popular gorges include Suchá Belá, Piecky, Sokol and Kyseľ. The symbol of Slovak Paradise is the Slovak anemone (Pulsatilla slavica) and Kopanecké lúky meadows is a site unique in Europe form the point of biodiversity, where 74 species of taller plants grow in one square meter.

As for protected animals, one can find here bears, lynxes, golden eagles, peregrine falcons, and also 18 species of bats.

“Our goal is to develop tourism here, but also while respecting environmental protection,” chair of the association of municipalities Micro-region Slovak Paradise North, Jana Skokanová, told TASr. “The cooperation is very good between the NP administration, the state environmental protection and us. Thus, we have managed to keep the status here of a calm environment, not a merry-go-round, in spite of a high rate of visitors.”

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