"The Retezat National Park is a vision of paradise, truly one of the wonders of the world" An interview with Zoran Acimov, Director of the Retezat National Park, by Ion Longin Popescu
"The blue-eyed realm", that's how tourist guides introduce the place when they talk about the National Retezat Park. It is a region with 50 lakes that mirror the spotlessly clear blue of the sky, maybe the only retreat of the kind in Europe. High up in the many clearings, rhododendron kotschyi, gentian, mountain aven, Lady's slipper, lily, mouse-ear hawkseed, tuberosus pea, various orchids, and other delicate types of plants still slumber under the mounds of snow. Spring can be felt approaching only by the frozen grass blade on which thawed snow drips ever more vigorously, trickling down into the valleys where the sun has already pierced the snow mantle. Despite the lazy snowflakes still fluttering around in the early March days, spring is not so far away at the foot of the National Park of the Retezat Mountains. On the numberless rugged rocks the sun rays sound the alarum of renaissance and love for all the birds in the woods, for all the sleepy beetles, ants, larvae or lichens. In the absence of these rocks, spring would arrive much later in the Retezat Mountains. They give shelter to the young, rod-vertical trees to burst into bloom on Easter: maple trees, mountain ashes and, higher up, beeches and spruces that seem to stem directly out of solid rock. This vegetation actually strikes root in the moss-invaded crags. Scientifically speaking what is the National Retezat Park? Why was it included on the not very long list of Seven-Natural-Wonders-of-the-World candidates? What does forest engineer Zoran Acimov think about this mountain temple? Glacier Lakes, Thousand of Flowers and ButterfliesWhen was the National Retezat Park established and what does this park represent?
The Retezat is the most complex and grandiose mountain massif in the Romanian Carpathians. Its originality lies in the existence of 20 spectacular alpine summits that exceed 2,000 meters, and in a sculptural relief, in steps. The park was set up in 1935, and today it enjoys the status of a protected natural area of national and international importance. In 1979 it was recognized as a biosphere reserve with a surface of 38,138 hectares. It boasts over 50 permanent glacier lakes, among which the Bucura, the biggest lake in the country. The park is also renowned for its diverse flora and fauna, with about 1,190 species of superior plants (33 percent of the plants in Romania), 90 endemic plants – that is species that can be found only in this region – as well as 130 rare or vulnerable species. The Retezat Park is also populated by 55 species of mammals, 169 species of birds, 9 species of reptiles, and 5 species of amphibians. Also, the Berhina meadow on the Valley of the Lapusnic Mare was declared a Lepideptorological area of European importance, in plainer words a zone of extreme European interest for butterflies. Since when has the Romsilva Autonomous Operator managed the Park, and when did this park become known abroad?
Beginning in 1999 the National Retezat Park gained its own administration, subordinated to the Romsilva National Forest Operator. In September 2004, the Park became a member of the International Foundation PAN PARKS, and since 2007 it has been protected as a site of the European ecological network NATURE 2000. The aim is to conserve the natural habitats of the species of plants and of the wild animals, to the benefit of the community. Everybody knows by now that the National Retezat Park was shortlisted by the Swiss Foundation 7 Wonders in the process of designating Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Why do you think the NRP deserves to be put under protection?
Because it is a vision of paradise, truly one of the natural wonders of the world; an area where nature is less cramped by man's intervention. The thousands of species of plants provide an excellent shelter, just like the lush forests and the savin shrubs decking the mountains. There is a fine balance between carnivore and herbivore creatures, wolves and lynxes but also chamois, deer, bucks, boars, rabbits, marmots. Being shortlisted for the Seven Wonders came as a surprise to us. Most likely it was the idea of a foreigner who fell in love with the beauties in Romania. We thereby acquired visibility, and after a first stage when a first seeding occurred, we continued to be on the list which featured 261 natural wonders from all over the world. The second stage closed on July 7,
2009, and then the winners were picked up. Former UNESCO president Federico Mayor headed the Jury designating the winners based on voting on the Internet. The Most Beautiful Virgin Forest in EuropeWhat consequences will the shortlisting of the Park for the Seven Nature Wonders of the World have?
It goes without saying that the fame of the Park will increase, and this will garner economic benefits for the area. Not actually being chosen one of the seven nature wonders spares us one possible unwanted effect: overcrowding. No matter how well meaning the visitors, hordes of them are bound to ruin the balance of the area. Our motto is: Leave no trace of your passage through the park! The most solid ecosystem in the Retezat is the forest. What can you tell us about the woods, forest engineer Acimov
? In the Retezat the woods take 49 percent of the park's total acreage, and out of this surface a big part is virgin forest, perhaps the most beautiful in Europe. European rangers come here and kneel among the trees, overwhelmed with emotion like in a temple. The trees, especially the pinus arolla, are the most beautiful in the country. Here one can also admire the straightest and the most elegant beeches in the Carpathians, as well as silver fir trees like majestic crowned kings. From up there, down into the alpine ravines, you can see juniper bushes that make up a safety belt that stretches over hundreds of hectares and cushions the explosive phenomena that occur in the mountains, like storms, torrential rains, streams of water. In their absence there would be chaos, hell on earth because of the erosion. How many employees work for the Park Administration?
No more than 17, rangers and blue-collars included. They get poor paychecks but they are all animated by love for the mountains and nature. By comparison, in Poland, Hungary, Slovakia or Serbia there are at last 100 employees for an identical area. Where would you situate the Retezat National Park in the great temple of nature?
Somewhere very high. Our park boasts assets no longer existing elsewhere in Europe nowadays. Things that not even all the Romanians have seen although they can benefit from the Park for free, and the only thing asked from them is to behave in a civilized manner. Formula AS
magazine, March 2009 Translated by Alina Cârâc
by Ion Longin Popescu