The Covid-19 pandemic posed numerous challenges, which parks and protected areas could not resist. From lack of revenue, difficulties in functioning and communication, lack of visitors to the problem of their overcrowding in some parks, the pandemic has once again shown how vulnerable protected areas are. Now they have to adapt to new ways of communication, new infrastructure and visitors, which is highlighted through this year's slogan "Parks - the next generation".
"This global crisis can serve as an opportunity to reform the management of existing protected areas, which is often based on their economic viability, and turn to creating green, inclusive policies that will contribute to building a more positive future for protected areas and local communities in them. The opportunity for that is the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans, which, in addition to developing a circular economy, achieving carbon neutrality and reducing pollution, is also focused on the protection of biodiversity, which is one of the key roles of protected areas. Through national plans and the Green Agenda, state governments should provide greater support for protected areas as well ", points out Marko Pećarević, manager of the project" Protected areas for nature and people "implemented by WWF Adria.
In our region as well, parks have shown all aspects of the vulnerabilities and weaknesses of existing systems and the need to develop specific knowledge and skills with which employees will be able to respond to numerous challenges in everyday activities. In order to become more resilient to crisis situations, protected areas need to improve their knowledge and skills related to biodiversity conservation, develop innovative sources of funding and promote the importance of protected areas for educational activities and sustainable tourism.
"Some protected areas in the previous period were too oriented towards the development of tourism, which resulted in a constant increase in the number of visitors, especially those who come for one-day visits to parks. These pressures ultimately had a negative impact on nature conservation. On the other hand, protected areas that were not previously focused on tourism, were suddenly exposed to a larger volume of visits by domestic tourists, and had difficulties in effective control of visitors, and also did not have developed mechanisms to generate revenue from visits, said program manager of Parks Dinarides Jelena Marojević Galić.
EUROPARK Federation, a network of European protected areas, has been celebrating European Parks Day since 1999, in memory of the proclamation of the first national parks in Europe. This date has been celebrated in the region since 2001. It is an opportunity, especially in the period of adjusting the functioning of parks and protected areas during the pandemic, to emphasize how necessary it is to ensure their stable financing.