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Home Paros Life - Current Issue Backissue Nr. 128
  Nr. 128 - August 2009
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Amazing Place

by Iris Papathanasiou
“Those of us who have taken the responsibility to create and manage the Environmental and Cultural Park on Paros feel blessed to have this area in which to design our ideas, as it is a magical location, a truly “amazing place”.
It has remained unaltered to a great extent, without the pressure of development that so many other areas in the islands have yielded to and, in the process, been destroyed.

This area offers you everything! It has the ideal natural setting, a secure anchorage protected from the winds, and a history and culture that go as far back as the prehistoric period, with important events highlighting Paros throughout history, as the centre, the focal point of the Aegean”.
Elizavet Papazoi

“Monastiri Beach” before, “The Park” today, is an area that many have wanted and fought over. Anyone who has been there can understand why. Naoussa’s cultural association Nireas was the first to step forward to try to protect the area after the contract
of the previous business renting it ended. Though they had the support of the municipal authority, they faced difficulties every step of the way.

Some of the members of the Nireas Association even ended up in jail at one point as a result of mean-spirited allegations against them involving trivial legal technicalities.
This is when Elizavet Papazoi came into the picture. Former Nomarchis in the Cycladic area, holding several important positions in government in the past, Elizavet is well known and liked on Paros.

“In May 2008, the people in Nireas asked for my advice. We sat down and designed a comprehensive proposal, based on their ideas, about the management of the whole peninsula, an area of 800 stremmata, and gave it to the Town Council of Paros for agreement.”
That’s when the road cleared. The Town Council gave their unanimous agreement to the project last summer and clarified the content, baptizing it “The Environmental & Cultural Park of Ai Giannis Detis”.

“From this point onwards, we began to face each obstacle individually, moving forward very quickly in order to reach our goal. Things that had initially seemed impossible to overcome suddenly dissolved as we progressed because we stayed united, we were determined and we had promised not to give up our efforts no matter what happened. This is why I believe we succeeded. We had to face attacks from specific interested parties who wished to use this bay and profit from it in a totally different manner from what we intended”.

Elizavet Papazoi and the team of the Municipal S.A. Company: Tassos Kassapidis, Nikos Malatestas, Spyros Panagiotou, Maria Tripolitsioti and Alexandros Karpodinis are gathered in the Park on 5 July to discuss their next moves, as the start of the “Eco-logical Festival” they have organized for this summer is now only a few days away...
Mrs Papazoi, who is the President of the managing committee in charge of the project, gave us a detailed account of their objectives, describing a plan for this peninsula that is progressive, original and exemplary,
a project that is one of a kind in Greece.

PL: What does the title “Environmental & Cultural Park” practically mean for the Park’s visitors?
“As far as the cultural theme of the park is concerned, we will concentrate first of all on promoting the history that exists in this area, starting from a prehistoric settlement that has been located close to the docks and which should be excavated. Our aim is to support and press the archaeological agency to do this. The monastery, from which the Park takes its name, is also an historical monument from the post-Byzantine period. We want to renovate the cells so they can be used for exhibitions.

“Then we have the important history of the Russian navy that held a powerful naval base for the Aegean area right here in 1774. There are still many remains including buildings and canons from that time. We are planning to create an historical route showing and explaining this history to the Park’s visitors and to create a museum about the Russian naval presence in the Aegean. Also planned is a museum of nautical history and fishing traditions, as we all know that Naoussa has a very significant past in this respect. The museum buildings will be small, not exceeding 120m2, but we still need to conduct the necessary land planning studies to examine the projects that need to be done and assess the most appropriate area for their construction within the Park. There is also a beautiful lighthouse that we have not yet decided on how to promote.

“Finally the cultural character of this area will be highlighted by an annual summer festival to be held in the circular amphitheatre – the “Katholiko Theatre” – that we are building on the rocks above the beach, which will seat around 1,000 people and where we plan to host concerts and other special events.

PL: Will the local schools and associations be able to use the Park for their events too?
“The events held here will be chosen carefully and will only be approved if they are of a high quality and in accordance with the philosophy of what we are trying to do here. We are open to all proposals that reflect these ideas. At the moment it is the managing committee that will decide on the suitability of proposed events, but during the next phase we are planning to create a special committee to be responsible for the festival’s organization. We are even considering creating an open-air cinema and an outdoor exhibition area.

PL: And what about the environmental theme of the Park?
“The environmental project has two directions. One direction will involve restoring the land to its previous state before livestock grazed here. We know what the flora was like here so we will try to revive that. Together with the Naoussa schools, last December we planted 1,000 plants endemic to this area in order to start this process... nature then takes care of the rest.

“The other plan is to restore, clean and put up signs on all the old walking paths and create shaded resting points along the way so that visitors can discover more about the nature and past of this peninsula. The routes have been mapped and in September we will start labeling and cleaning them.

“Our next aim is to convert the docks and make their function environmentally friendly so that there is no toxic waste. But this year our main theme and objective is to promote the concept of saving energy in our buildings and we are preparing an interesting architectural exhibition showing buildings in the Aegean that demonstrate this idea, though it won’t be ready in time for this season.

“On the islands we all know that we squander energy. Air-conditioners or heaters run constantly throughout winter and summer and one of the reasons this happens is because our homes have not been built correctly. Insulation is not done properly, the windows are wrong, and generally houses do not have the necessary specifications so that they remain warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Traditional Cycladic architecture, on the other hand, has always been very bioclimatic.

“This is the kind of perception we wish to promote and the implementation of such projects will start from here; from the Park. We have applied to the EU programme “Exoikonomo” (“Saving”), through which we will fund the lighting of the Park and the restoration of the old municipal hostel situated at the entrance to Naoussa. This 450m2 building will be the centrepiece of our project. It will be a green building. Part of it will be used as a snack bar offering refreshments for Piperi Beach in order to generate some income, another part will be created for exhibitions and the rest will accommodate the Park committee’s offices. We don’t want this programme to be only for Paros, though. Paros will be the centre, the focal point from where the idea of energy saving will be communicated to the other Cycladic islands.

PL: What about promoting the use of renewable energy?
“Our first aim is that of saving energy in a natural way using both contemporary and ancient methods. When we manage to save energy, then we can start considering sustainable energy projects too. The speed at which we are designing and realizing our plans is happening very fast; we are surpassing even some of our long-term goals, immediately creating new ones. So ideas in this direction are definitely developing. For example we have agreed with CRES – the Centre for Renewable Energy Sources & Saving (which is the Greek national entity for the promotion of renewable energy sources, rational use of energy and energy conservation) to run educational programmes for children here next year (seewww.cres.gr).

PL: The beach here is organised, with umbrellas and sun-beds. Doesn’t that contradict the idea of an ecological park? Shouldn’t it remain untouched?
“The beach is not the Park, but the beach is our only income at the moment for running the Park. We have attempted to create a setting of quality, using materials that are functional and long-lasting. The Park has to be able to support itself as an independent S.A. (Société Anonyme) company, and therefore the income we have from the snack bar and beach is significant.

“We want to show that tourism can co-exist with culture and nature. But I want to make it clear that this is only the first phase of our project. When the Municipality took over the area, people were afraid that this beach that used to attract so many tourists as a beach-bar would remain deserted. We had to prove that we were able to create a tourism attraction point that would be much better and offer quality in comparison to what it was like before. And I believe that we have succeeded. The Park is not only this beach and canteen. Our ambition is to show that within a touristic area you can promote environmental issues, sports, culture and recreation. The idea of creating a park that would remain without any activity at all would not give us the opportunity to show these treasures to many people, the richness of the history and culture that exists here.

“Even though we have one organized beach, there are several other beaches in the area that are left untouched. Every day we have someone cleaning all these beaches so visitors can have a choice between an organized beach and a completely natural setting.
“We only started preparing this area in March and we are proud to have managed to complete it in time for the summer season. It was a very challenging task.

PL: How do you plan on promoting the activities here?
“Our aim is to succeed in making the Park known to the whole world and to prove that there is an alternative option for the development of tourism. Apart from the usual model of sun-beach-nightlife, people coming here can walk the routes in the hills, listen to a great concert, see an exhibition. This is a new model of development which our islands must adopt for the future! And we also want to prove that a project for the common good carried out by a public organisation can be done quickly, efficiently and effectively.

“We have a Facebook account which is already very popular and we are in the process of creating a website, but we have not yet publicized The Park very widely, as we felt we had to realize some of our ideas before communicating them to the public.

PL: Have most people helped and supported this project?
“Not everyone! But as time goes by we are gaining more and more friends and supporters as they realize what it is we are trying to do and that this is a project that will greatly benefit Paros.

“The budget we need for our activities and construction so far is 250,000 euro, 60,000 euro of which has been allotted by the municipality as a starting capital for the foundation of the Municipal S.A. Company. The rest we will cover from the income of the snack bar and beach, and hopefully from some sponsors. We also want the “Festival at the Park” to cover its own expenses. We have submitted two proposals for EU funding already and we are ready to submit a complete plan when more EU funding schemes are announced.

PL: How are you planning to involve the local community in the Park?
“First of all, the products we offer here, the cheese and wine, are from local producers and of course from the Union of Agricultural Associations. Our relationship with the local community cannot be anything but stable and systematic. When the hectic summer season is over, we will start to realize projects with the local community. The Park is going to remain active throughout the year and not only during the tourism season. We have created an association – the “Friends of the Park” – which already has around 100 members, the point of which is to reach out to and involve the community.

PL: For many years you held important positions in central government, as a Member of Parliament, Prefect in the Cycladic Nomarchy, Minister of Culture and Minister of the Environment. Are you planning to return to central politics at some point?
“I believe I have been given an exceptional opportunity. I have the chance to do things that I like without commitments and obligations. Some people say that I’ve taken on this project because I am politically ambitious and wish to return to central government. However, for me, politics today unfortunately does not give the opportunity to people to contribute. One’s professional commitments and obligations to others as well as to the party are such that they do not allow you the freedom to give – except of course for those who enter politics in order to promote their own interests!

“At this point in time I have retired from public life and I am not interested in returning. I am free and this is very important to me. It means that I can dedicate all my efforts, my experience, my knowledge and connections to something I really believe in. I can do so much more being free and without the obligations of a politician!

PL: You are putting so much time and energy into this project in Paros. What does Paros mean to you?
“I’ve always promoted worthy projects in all the islands, not only on Paros. My intention is to help similar ideas develop all over Greece. In Athens I am currently involved in the Maria Callas Opera Academy, for example (see www.orama-opera.gr). Of course I feel a special connection to Paros, but that does not mean that I won’t do the same in, say, Naxos tomorrow or in Tinos. Paros is the focal point from where we want these ideas to spread. We have so many opportunities and possibilities, even just on this one island. The area of the ancient quarries, for example, is a place everyone wants to see protected and promoted and we owe it to the history of this island to do that.

PL: What can each of us do to help to support and advance these ideas?
“To conclude, I would like to make an appeal to the people here. We can all help in so many different ways by offering our knowledge, our experience, and our skills, wherever we might be. Working together we can overcome all the obstacles that the reality of Greece unfortunately creates!

“The time of great benefactors is over. Today’s benefactors cannot be anything other than many people united and willing to offer something from their knowledge and their time for a good cause. If each and every one of us lends a hand, we can achieve extraordinary things. This is how the Park has been established. It is the result of great teamwork and the committment of a group of people united and determined to make their vision a reality.”

For further information or to volunteer your services to The Park tel: 22840-51220 or email parko@paros.gr

See a map of The Park, its intended facilities, and a programme of events at the Parosweb Community Pages
- go to www.paroscommunity.com and search for “Park” and see www.paroscommunity.com/parkmap

Join The Park’s Facebook group at http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=104718653161

Watch a videoclip, thanks to Cynthia Cotts, of the official inauguration and blessing of The Park on 21 June 2009 at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BxQcW29sOvE

The Environmental & Cultural Park needs volunteers for the 2009 “Festival at the Park” for the concerts on the 6th, 16th & 29th August.
For information, please contact:
Panagiotis on tel - 693 6670 552
email - spiru.panayotis@gmail.com
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