Events, facts, documents and evidences: The development of ecological tourism is one of the main objectives which the National Park provides. Specific infrastructure and facilities have been created for this purpose, including museums, enclosures with wild animals, ecological routes and paths etc. Also literature about ecology aimed at the public is being published. To reach the objective a part of the staff of the National Park directly deals with ecological tourism; guides are the most important among its employees.
The "Belovezhskaya Pushcha" National Park started to implement ecological and touristic infrastructure a long time ago. Before 1991 Belovezhskaya Pushcha had the status of State Protection Game Ground. The access of the numerous tourists who visited the forest to facilities of the Park was restricted to the Nature Museum and enclosures with wild animals at that time.
These photos show the Nature Museum and the enclosures of the National Park.
|(The Nature Museum, December 2004)|
|(Enclosures with wild animals, December 2004)|
In 1991, when Belovezhskaya Pushcha became a National Park, the tourists obtained the opportunity to see reserved wood and historical sites such as, for example, the governmental residence "Viskuly". Especially for this purpose a network of touristic car routes was developed, on which tourists were allowed to drive through the forest and to familiarize with natural and cultural sights of Belovezhskaya Pushcha, accompanied by a guide.
These pictures show the residence "Viskuly" (1) and the country estate of Count Tyschkevich (2). Photos by Valentin Ezhelov.
Besides trails for cars ecological paths were created. These allowed tourists to walk across reserved wood and to look at its amazing natural sight.
The "Taiga trail", shown here, is one of these ecological paths for pedestrians. This route was created in the second half of the 1990's and it is located two kilometers from the tourist centre and the Nature Museum of the National Park. The path leads visitors through a wild swamp area within Belovezhskaya Pushcha's forest. The path is designated by a special sign with its name (1) and by white and green stripes marked on trees along the trail (2).
|(The sign and mark of the trail,
October 6, 2004)
In 2004 the number of tourists who visited Belovezhskaya Pushcha has grown remarkably. It reached about 100,000 people, while 60,000 people came to the forest in previous years. The main reason for this increase was the opening of the residence of the Belarusian Grandfather Frost, another reason was that some restrictions were made in 2004 by the government to let children have a rest abroad.
Belovezhskaya Pushcha saw a welcome increase in the number of tourists to visit the National Park. However, an analysis of activities of the tourists unfortunately shows that an essential skew trend is in progress, which is that tourism is aimed nowadays at pure entertainment in order to easily earn sums of money, to the detriment of ecological tourism and education.
The "Taiga trail" represents an example of this skew trend. The trail is in VERY UNSATISFACTORY CONDITION or, to be more exact, the path is entirely deserted now and ecological and educational tourism are completely absent.
These pictures show the starting point of the ecological path (1), which gradually changes into a grassy bog (2 and 3). Even close to the path it is difficult to allocate the trail visually as it disappears in the dense grass. It is probable that not a single tourist left tracks on this path during the summer of 2004.
|(The ecological path is disappearing in the grass, October 6, 2004)|
A special wooden flooring has been set up at the wettest sites of the path. It allows tourists to pass the bog. These pictures show that the flooring is overgrown by grasses and covered by mosses; tourists did not visit this path.
|(A wooden flooring is disappearing in the grass, October 6, 2004)|
The wooden flooring was rotting and many parts of it have collapsed. It has not been repaired, since nobody would use it anyway.
|(The rotting wooden flooring, October 6, 2004)|
On some places trees were fallen over the flooring. They pose a barrier to follow the trail, but these trees are not being removed.
|(The fallen tree,
October 6, 2004)
At the edge of a bog and the forest the local relief becomes high and dry. Here the path which tourists do not use can only be recognized with markers on the trees. But there are also places where even these markers have been lost, which makes it very difficult to follow the trail in the right direction.
|(The ecological trail in the forest, October 6, 2004)|
Thus, the condition of the ecological path located most closely to the tourist center evidently shows the "importance" of ecological education and tourism in the National Park. Lack of literature on ecology and nature protection in the Nature Museum of the National Park, lack of public ecological activities and programs as well as other negative facts additionally confirm the sad situation in this sphere of business. Unfortunately ecological education and tourism, in the true sense of these words, have been replaced over the last year by an entertainment industry which aims at maximizing the financial turnover of Belovezhskaya Pushcha. Too little attention is being paid to the problems of ecological education and ecology. These notions allow to explain that in this sphere of activities "Belovezhskaya Pushcha" National Park does not match the goals and tasks determined in its statutory documents.