Centre of Excellence Cerovac Caves – Sustainable management of natural heritage and karst underground
The main goal of the project Centre of Excellence Cerovac Caves – sustainable management of natural heritage and karst underground is to enable the sustainable use of the natural heritage for the development of tourism and socioeconomic development by increasing the tourist appeal, education capacity and sustainable management of the Centre.
Velebit Nature Park is the largest and most complex protected area in the Republic of Croatia. In terms of geology and vegetation, the Park covers the most important mountain in Croatia and the wider Mediterranean region that was, due to its natural values and importance for the preservation of
biodiversity, included in 1978 in UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves. The most well-known
examples of underground wealth in Velebit Nature Park are the Upper and Lower Cerovac Caves that were designated as a geomorphological natural monument due to their unique and outstanding natural beauty and numerous ancient findings.
The implementation of the project Centre of Excellence - Cerovac Caves will contribute to developing a modern, innovative, and integrated visitor destination that relies on the principles of sustainable management of the natural heritage. The construction of the visitor infrastructure, the development of tourist offers and education programmes for the visitors will create the basis for a responsible and long-term management of the Cerovac Caves complex and the broader karst area – the Crnopac massif. It is estimated that the implementation of the project will lead to a several-fold increase in the number of visitors to the location, so 44,000 visitors are expected three years after the completion of the project. The project will contribute to an increase in the number of informed visitors to Velebit Nature Park by 36% in the third year after the project implementation. It is expected that 27 people will be employed by 2023, and as a direct result of the investment, 28 new and adapted tourist offers and products for visitors will be developed. The Centre of Excellence project will contribute to strengthening the sustainable socioeconomic development at local level through the expected growth of revenues in tourism and related products and services in the area of Municipality Gračac.
Interventions in space are designed and will be carried out in such a way as to avoid any significant negative impacts on nature and environment and reduce them to a minimum to avoid upsetting the natural balance and biological and landscape diversity of the area, as corroborated by the obtained opinions from the competent ministry. In addition, the project envisages the use of high-quality materials and systems that will provide for a high level of energy efficiency of the facility and use of natural resources. The installation of appropriate thermal insulation materials and construction systems, and of the heating and cooling systems using RES will ensure lower energy consumption by 20% per unit of surface area compared to the current facilities used to provide information services, ticket sales and visitor control. Through part of the project sub-activities (purchase of type-multipurpose equipment), it is planned to provide power from solar and wind energy, thus ensuring that more than 50% of electricity is generated from renewable sources. Project activities give preference to the use of the already built area and of the existing infrastructure over the construction on undeveloped land. Parts of the works, goods and services will be obtained applying the Gren Procurement criteria pursuant to the National Action Plan, mainly the purchase of ITC office equipment, of hybrid vehicles and e-cars charging stations, generating part of the energy from renewable sources, and the use of highly energy-efficient building materials.
Consequently, the project Centre of Excellence Cerovac Caves will contribute to the Sustainable Tourism Programme, goal 12 – Sustainable consumption and production by promoting the efficient use of resources, sustainable infrastructure and green jobs, so economic activities will have a direct impact on the overall prosperity of the area. The project will also contribute to a reduction in the future economic and environmental costs and improve the competitiveness of Velebit Nature Park.