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27.02.1014.The recreational potential of nature protected areas in Komi Republic has been assessed within the framework of UNDP/GEF Project
Visiting wildlife areas and sites is people’s one of the most popular and mass leisure-time activities all over the world.
Tourism and recreation make it possible for the visitors of wildlife areas to enjoy nature, improve their health and recover their strength, broaden the mind, study history, culture, flora and fauna characteristics, and learn to build harmonious relations with the environment.
The development of tourism and recreation in protected areas is currently devoted much attention because of their considerable potential in the field of environmental educational and recreation. This potential contributes a lot to building up public awareness in the field of protection of natural resources and making people understand the importance of environmental protection. To this purpose, the recreational potential of protected areas in Syktyvdinsky, Ust-Kulomsky and Udorsky districts has been assessed by the researchers working within the framework of the UNDP/GEF Project in the Republic of Komi.
These regions differ greatly from each other, and this makes the findings of the research more interesting.There are 15 various regional protected areas within Syktyvdinsky District: complex natural reserves, botanical natural monuments and others. In Ust-Kulomsky District there are 27 regional protected areas: complex natural reserves, botanical natural monuments and others. In Udorsky District there are 23 various regional protected areas.
The characteristic feature of the reserves in Syktyvdinsky District is their accessibility. All of them are located not far from settlements. The population of nearby settlements in Syktyvdinsky District, holiday villages and Syktyvkar, including people travelling by the federal auto-road “Vyatka”, visit freely these protected areas to pick mushrooms and berries, hunt or recreate. However, their behavior, when visiting protected areas, is not always civilized. There are unauthorized paths and auto-roads through all these reserves, laid out by the local community or enterprises. From time to time large rubbish dumps occur here and there. The closeness of Syktyvkar and other settlements, including auto-roads, railways, pipelines and other industrial trunk routes, seriously damages these protected areas.
At the same time local communities in this and other surveyed regions are poorly informed about protected areas. When being asked about the protected areas located nearby their village or town, they, in their turn, start asking questions, in particular, what protected areas are, and what they are established for. They have no clear idea of PA boundaries and the aim of their setting, including permitted or prohibited activities.
One of the weaknesses of the district’s tourism infrastructure is the lack of an available and extensive temporary accommodation network, motorway service areas and sustainable information with user-friendly navigation (web resources, information boards, etc.). The available temporary residences are mainly concentrated in the southern part of the district.
Considering the existing infrastructure facilities in the district, the researchers have concluded that there are basic conditions for the development of tourism in Syktyvdinsky District. It should be noted that eco-tourism is only permitted in protected areas. Its primary task is environmental education. As noted above, the district’s natural areas have not yet been involved in any sustainable (on continuing basis) tourism or recreational activities. Laying out routes in these reserves is aimed at the PA development within the framework of permitted activities. In 2013, with the establishment of the State Budget-Funded Institution “The PA Center”, the natural reserves started to be actively involved in tourism or recreational activities. It is a slow process that is making its initial steps. In spite of this fact, some progress has already been made. For instance, the development of ecological paths in Bely Reserve has attracted schoolchildren and teachers’ keen interest, including common visitors and tourists.
PA ecological paths and guided tours are developed with the assistance of Syktyvkar, Syktyvdinsky and Chernam forestries, school teachers and high school students, ecologists and the general public. The district’s location makes it possible to focus not only on the development of ecology-oriented PA routes. A guided tour to Chasovo Village, focused on the regional studies, in particular, the history of the village, ecology and nature, has been developed under the local secondary school (the number of visitors in 2013: 50). At the Folk Craft Center “Zaran”, on the premises of the Child and Youth Center in Zelenets Village and the Ecological Center in Pazhga Village, master classes and excursions are arranged in local mini-museums to familiarize visitors with customs and traditions of the Komi people in the field of nature management. In Yb Village excursions are also held that familiarize visitors with the geological monument “Kargortsky”, though there is little information about this monument, and there are no supportive visual aids. The State Autonomous Institution “The Finno-Ugric Ethno-Cultural Park” arranges master classes and programmes dedicated to nature and folk traditions related to nature. All out-of-town children’s camps use ecological programmes and activities in their work.
According to the researches, all the above-mentioned should be logically structured and analyzed. All existing guided tours and excursions need to be competently organized in the form of tourism platforms or products, and offered to various target groups.
On the whole, the tourism and recreational potential of protected areas in Syktyvdinsky District can be assessed as “average”. The area has attractive resources, and it is considered to be favourable for the development of various forms of nature tourism.
The main lines of the recreational development of protected areas in Syktyvdinsky District are sports tourism, green (rural) tourism and trade tourism. These types of tourism correspond best to the resource opportunities of Syktyvdinsky District and make it possible to use both reserves and adjacent areas.
In Ust-Kulomsky District the Programme on the Development of Domestic and Inbound Tourism within Ust-Kulom Municipality for 2012-2014 has been adopted. The Programme specifies lines of the tourism development in the region, including the necessary potential. Much has been done to attract tourists in the region, in particular, branding of Ust-Kulomsky District (Fire Squirrel – Biur), the development of a day-off tour actively operated by two travel companies, and the work with legal entities rendering travel services.
The tourism and recreational potential of protected areas in Ust-Kulomsky District has been assessed as “good”. The area has attractive resources, and it is considered to be favourable for the development of various forms of nature tourism such as sports (active) tourism (rafting; cycle, ski and walking routes developed on the basis of ecological paths) aimed at environmental education, hunting and fishing tourism (hobby tours) (hunting and fishing in protected areas and adjacent areas), and adventure tourism (visiting wilderness areas with a modicum of comfort).
According to the researchers’ estimates, the total tourist flow in 2013 can make up 3,200 visitors. Under the sustainable development, by 2015-2016 the tourist flow can be half as much again. As a result of implementing the tourism development programme, the resource potential of the region can be significantly improved, and a sustainable tourist flow can make up approximately 10,000 visitors per year. This will influence the overall development of the region (increase in the population’s self-employment; increase in arrivals at all budget levels; the development of a trade enterprise network and public catering establishments; creation of new jobs; setting up new businesses in the service sector.
When implementing the programme, one should not forget that one of the components of the area’s image attractiveness is its environmental attractiveness, and conservation and the proper involvement of protected areas located in the region in recreational activities play a significant role in this. For this purpose, the researchers suggest that the following natural parks should be established on the basis of the existing protected areas:
- the marsh reserve “Don-ty” consolidated with Lake Don-ty;
- the botanical reserve “Plesovka”, “Vuktylsky” and the ichthyological reserve “Vadbozhsky” consolidated in one protected area.
To improve the image attractiveness of Ust-Kulomsky District in the field of tourism, it has been proposed to develop the ecological project “Moroshka” comprising two pilots: the eco-camp “Moroshka” and a volunteer movement of the same name. These pilots can be aimed at increasing the region’s tourism and recreational attractiveness in the field of ecological and educational tourism by developing rafting routes in ichthyological reserves. The region has a unique potential. Three ichthyological and two complex reserves, including rivers, are located within its boundaries. This potential is worthy of being widely used.
As for Udorsky District, in the researchers’ opinion, its location, diverse natural landscapes and rich ethnic material can serve as a basis for eco-tourism in the region based on the principle of a long stay. These are programmes and routes designed for long-term tours (from 6 to 12-15 days) with visiting natural reserves. In this case the amount of money spent by visitors makes it possible to create conditions for further development of new forms of tourism and recreation.
Based on the research findings, it has been suggested that the recreational development of protected areas in Udorsky District should be based on the following forms of tourism: adventure tourism, ethno-ecological tourism, hunting and fishing tourism (hobby tours). For this purpose, a branch of the Komi Republic State Budget-Funded Institution “The PA Center” must be established in the region to coordinate recreational activities in protected areas. It will also be necessary to continue the development of a guest house system in the area. This can be done by making the development of a guest house system one of the priorities of the municipal tourism development programme. It will be necessary to work in other directions as well. At the same time it should be understood that the available resources, in particular, transport, labour, infrastructure and service resources will not make it possible to create a sustainable tourism system in Udorsky District in a short period of time and with minimum investment. Therefore, the resource potential should be improved so as to be logically used.
According to the researchers, the total tourist flow in 2013 can make up 1,500 visitors. Under the sustainable progressive development, there can be a twofold increase in the tourist flow by 2016-2017. As a result of the development, by 2020 there must be a sustainable tourist flow up to 10,000 visitors per year. This will have positive effects on the overall development of the region.
The researchers’ conclusions in this case are indisputable: the PA recreational tourism will affect favourably the socio-economic development of the region. A positive image/brand of the area is created by a number of factors such as the level of economic, infrastructure and transport development, the level of the service sector development, recreational resources available, environmental characteristics of the area and its overall investment attractiveness. Benefits from using protected areas will be assessed by the area’s increased standard of well-being. Regions with well-developed tourism and recreational infrastructure are always characterized by high living standards of their population.
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