Văcărești Natural Park Association (VNPA)
Funding support: The funding is ensured through sponsorships. Bucharest City Hall, partner in administration, will support some of the park’s management activities.
Number of staff: 6
From 2014, more than 2000 visitors/ year walked the paths of Văcărești, most of them school children. As the conditions for visit will gradually improve, we expect that the number of visitors will constantly increase (estimation: 10,000 in 2017).
Overall aims of the centre
The aims of VNPA are:
– To protect the biodiversity and the wetland ecosystem services
– To improve the level of knowledge of the area, through research and monitoring
– To get people closer to nature by providing them alternatives for healthy recreation (“Nature at your door” is the slogan)
– Environmental education
Description of the centre
Văcărești Natural Park is located 4 km away from the city centre and it covers 183 hectare, being the largest green space in Bucharest.
It lies on the former place of a reservoir designed in 1988 for flood control and recreation and abandoned one year later.
Due to the great biological diversity that developed here with no human support, in 2016 Văcărești has been granted the status of urban natural park, corresponding to Category V IUCN – Protected Landscape.
Over 100 species of vascular plants are listed, among which Lindernia procumbens (Krocker) Philcox, of community interest and the smallest vascular plant on Earth, Wolffia arrhiza.
Over 100 species of birds have been observed in Văcărești, such as herons, egrets, cormorants, mallards, ferruginous ducks, coots, swans, whiskered terns, marsh harriers.
The lakes and their surroundings are home to 7 species of fish, 4 species of amphibians, out of which the great crested newt and the fire-bellied toad are strictly protected by the Bern Convention and the Habitats Directive, and 4 species of reptiles, among which the European pond turtle.
Small mammals such as otters, muskrats, foxes and weasels have also found their place in the urban delta. The presence of the otter, a species that is strictly protected in Europe, is an important indicator of the good aquatic ecosystem’s quality.
In the next years VNPA will arrange thematic trails (e.g. “The biodiversity trail in Văcărești Natural Park” or “Discover the world of the birds”), a bike path around the park, birds observatories, information points and interactive interpretive devices, a visitor centre.
Main CEPA work areas
VNPA organises nature interpretation and observation lessons open to all schools in Bucharest. The lessons are delivered both in the park and in Văcărești nature observatory, arranged at 60 m height, in a 17th floor glass walls open space plus a large terrace (360 degrees view).
The Observatory offers beautiful views of the entire park, being at the same time a space for information, story telling, photo exhibitions, changing ideas about on going and future VNPA’s projects. The access to the Observatory is free; however, an appointment shall be made in advance.
VNPA communicates news about the park through its website, social networks, blogs, local and international media (e.g. National Geographic, the Guardian, Reuters etc.)
Top three successes
Obtaining the status of natural park for Văcărești area
Organization of environmental education activities in collaboration with 25 schools, for more than 4000 children so far, teaching them about the species in the park and why it is important to protect them.
Top three challenges
The reed fires and poaching still occur in the park.
The release or abandonment of exotic species of animals (e.g. the yellow-bellied slider) poses a serious threat to the native species.
Creating signage; site information; Producing written materials; Using audio-visual tools; Developing nature trails
Setting up a new visitor centre; Managing / creating habitat; Running a visitor centre
Engaging hard-to-reach groups; Engaging young people; Engaging the local community; Working with volunteers
Education and communication
Early years education; Delivering adult education; Working with primary schools; Lobbying / running campaigns; Working with secondary schools
Running effective administration; Health and safety; Fund-raising; Project planning.