Stakeholders have their say in valorising health benefits in Nature Park Medvednica

Inside perspective on the First Croatian MAG Meeting by Martina Belović Kelemen

30% of  Croatian territory is Natura 2000 site. There are 12 nature parks and 8 national parks. One of them is Nature Park Medvednica (NPM), protected as IUCN category V.

Medvednica is located next to the capital of Croatia and the ecosystem services that Medvednica provides to the Zagreb and local people are enormous.

A healthy environment is good for everyone, but rarely anyone thinks about all the benefits that the forest provides. Starting from that point, we decided to valorize the health function of the ecosystem service. There are many papers on ecosystem services, but nobody has been analyzing health so far. Health is closely related to sports and recreation, so most of our stakeholders are related to sport, recreational providers and healthcare institutions.

Unfortunately, only 5 different stakeholders attented the first Multi Actor Group (MAG) meeting for the NPM innovation action: HŠ l.l.c., IDIR, The Faculty of Kinesiology, Ski Club Sljeme and Croatian Mountain Rescue Service. The first MAG meeting was held on the border of NPM in the Puntijar Hotel. The Puntijar family is one of our stakeholders and have a 180 years old tradition of catering; they also hosted the Pope John Paul II, as well as Benedict XVI. In the informal part of the workshop we visited a family museum of gastronomy. Along with various interesting items used in the kitchen throughout history, such as eating utensils and cooking, there is a collection of more than 2000 original cookbooks, 1000 menus and 500 old tourist guides.

Regardless of the small number of participants, eight representatives and three organisers  conducted a lively discussion. Everyone immediately noticed that there were no representatives of mountaineers who have their own city and state alliances and are among the most numerous visitors to the Park, but the goal of the workshop has been achieved. Four mechanisms were proposed, nothing completely innovative, but all mechanisms have a legal background and can be implemented immediately.  In the meantime, it is also necessary to interview visitors, stakeholders and the local population on the willingness to pay for the health benefits provided by NP Medvednica.

Forests of Medvednica have been sustainably managed for decades, but despite this, visitors are not satisfied with the fact that the Medvednica forests are exploited and many of them consider foresters as the devastators of Medvednica. That is why our communication campaign within the IA case will focus on raising public awareness about ecosystem services in general, about management of forests and FSC certification.

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