Lahemaa National Park – 45 years working with the local community

Lahemaa National Park, Estonia © Toomas Tuul

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Article issued by Ave Paulus, expert in cultural heritage

Lahemaa national park, estonia

Black Stork at Lahemaa national park, Estonia © Toomas Tuul

Lahemaa National Park – Estonia was the first national park in the former Soviet Union and was founded on the 1st of June 1971. The oldest and largest National Park in Estonia ensures the protection of a great variety of natural and cultural values: pristine habitats and cultural landscapes, culture and heritage. Lahemaa, with its more than 70 000 hectars of protected areas, is amongst the bigger protected forest areas in Europe, it hosts 72 local villages and covers over 30 000 hectars of cultural landscapes. Here we have  a lot of unique wildlife, plants.. and people.

In 2016, Lahemaa celebrates it’s 45th anniversary, and the focus of this celebration is the human impact within the National Park. More than half of the land is privately owned, thus, the National park is the home of thousands of families. People are the biggest asset of our cultural diversity.  National park management plan has been made together with locals, land is managed and culture is kept by locals. We are celebrating human touch in Lahemaa in our summer party together with local villages  in July. It ends with a night song festival in Palmse manor park.

The soul of Lahemaa

The soul of Lahemaa lies in people, who, through generations of heritage protectors and keepers, have made possible to create the national park and keep it throughout different political periods and regimes.

Arne Kaasik, one of the founders of national park, its  director during 33 years, and long-time EUROPARC council member, offered an amazing birthday present: he donated his private archive to the scientific libary of Lahemaa. The collection of photos and slides alone consists of more than 20 000 items. His archive depicts the history of the park since its foundation. It is a great honour.

Lahemaa national park, estonia

© Toomas Tuul

“Local communities, cultural landscapes and heritage“

In the autumn, 6-8 October 2016, the Environmental Board of Estonia in cooperation with Estonian University of Life Sciences, Estonian Academy of Arts, ICOMOS Estonia and communities of Lahemaa National Park are organising an international conference “Local communities, cultural landscapes and heritage“, dedicated to Lahemaa National Park’s 45th anniversary. During the conference, we will look at the current issues on heritage management in theory and practice – key issues of empowerment of local communities and community involvement in heritage protection practice in Europe. The participants of this conference are experts in the field, heritage practitioners and members of local communities of protected areas, among key speakers dr Kalev Sepp, dr Peter Bille Larsen, dr Tobias Plieninger, dr Marc Metzger, dr Jonathan Porter, dr Riin Alatalu…

Lahemaa national park – unique piece of land and sea with very diverse natural and cultural values, unique place of interaction of human and nature throughout thousands of years – has been here for 45 years. We hope – much longer. We are grateful to all the people who care about the values of  Lahemaa.