About the House of Nature Programme
Protected landscape areas represent natural and cultural heritage of national and international importance. Some are part of the UNESCO global system of biospheric reservations, wetlands of international importance and geoparks. They are traditionally the most important and most attractive tourist destinations. The Nature Conservation Agency of the Czech Republic has created and realised a public awareness and information system, from unified information boards through interactive educational trails, viewing points, bird observatories to visitor centres – so-called houses of nature which, as part of the House of Nature Programme, are accompanied by smaller information centres in locations with high visitor numbers.
Protected landscape areas are windows onto the landscape that has been shaped by people for centuries and which is harmonically linked to the unique natural environment. The rich mosaic of fields, meadows, forests, smaller settlements, diverse natural phenomena and cultural monuments, all of this can be seen in the 25 protected landscape areas which are administered by the Nature Conservation Agency of the Czech Republic. Its priorities in nature conservation include awareness and information for the public, without the support of which the long-term conservation of nature and landscape would not be possible.
There has been an ever greater need to build visitor centres in places with a significant natural and cultural heritage as people’s desire to explore, travel and visit interesting destinations grows. Areas valuable from the viewpoint of nature and landscape conservation are often marginalised in economic terms, and tourism is a major and sometimes the only development potential.
The entry of the Czech Republic into EU brought means of co-financing the building of visitor centres from EU funds, the environmental operating programme, thus enabling fulfilment of the major objective defined in the Strategy for Biodiversity Conservation of the Czech Republic, i.e. secure a permanent information campaign and present the importance of biological diversity and sustainable use of nature’s components, and ensure that this information is easily available, as well as the measures defined in the State Programme of Nature and Landscape Conservation in the Czech Republic.
Positive education and enlightenment for visitors and residents in protected areas.
To build a network of houses of nature in selected protected landscape areas and possibly also in the most visited national nature reserves and monuments administered by the Nature Conservation Agency of the Czech Republic, and to implement measures proposed in the management plans for these protected areas.
- Welcomes visitors entering protected areas or in places with high numbers of visitors, at intersections of tourist trails or at traditional spots.
- Informs the public in various ways about the phenomena of each particular protected area; the key feature is a permanent interactive indoor and outdoor exhibition about the nature and landscape of the protected area.
- Boosts awareness of the rudimentary principles and reasons for nature and landscape conservation, raises interest and creates a positive link between visitors and the site they are at, as well as nature and landscape conservation in general.
- Helps to educate visitors and direct them around the protected area, including the organisation of outdoor programmes with certified guides, etc.
- Provides instructional and educational programmes for visitors and schools.
- Provides basic tourism-related information, such as accommodation, transport, cultural events in the region, etc., in cooperation with the local destination management.
- Enables locals to meet in a pleasant and inspiring environment.
- Organises the sale of publications, regional products, high-quality souvenirs, promotional items, maps, educational materials, popular education films relating to the relevant site, etc.
Design of the Houses of Nature
- Based on a unified architectural concept, a manual for designing visitors’ centres of the Nature Conservation Agency of the Czech Republic.
- The new building is an exemplary energy-saving structure made from natural and local materials.
- It is environmentally friendly; for instance it uses rainwater and recycles waste.
- The interior design and art design of the entire exhibition is based on unified rules which respect the way the structure is divided up into sections for information, exhibitions and sales and promotion.
- Besides offering pleasant atmosphere, the buildings should give visitors a sense of belonging to nature.
- The orientation and information system uses a unified graphic design consistent with the graphic manual.
- Functional copyright works of art are used both outdoors and indoors, together with local traditional products and crafts.
- The permanent exhibition, focusing on the history, nature and landscape of the protected area, is interactive and uses modern 3-D audio-visual technologies.
- The structure has enough room for temporary exhibitions and meetings of local people.
- Public sanitary facilities with sufficient capacity are available in the structure.
- The structures are consistently marked, such as The Czech Forest House of Nature, Trebon Area House of Nature.
The Nature Conservation Agency operates the houses of nature in cooperation with local partners on the grounds of operation contracts, guaranteeing the scope and quality of the services rendered and the financial sustainability of their operation in line with the principles set forth in the Nature Conservation Agency’s House of Nature programme. The houses are operated all year round, in certain cases for at least 5 months in the main tourist season.
The Nature Conservation Agency assumes that a grant will be provided to cover the costs of one full-time job and the costs of running the building. The remaining resources, usually 2/3–3/4 of the costs, must be borne by the operator either from his own activities or from local or regional funds.
The programme was launched in 2009. The Nature Conservation Agency adopted organisational measures to guarantee the success of the project. An expert group was founded, whose main task was to coordinate activities, advocate changes to financial instruments facilitating the financing of the building and operation of the houses of nature, assess suggested construction sites, evaluate architectural studies and projects, proposed educational programmes for the house of nature staff and suggested exhibitions and programmes. In 2016 its activities were taken over by the Managing Committee of the House of Nature Programme.
Local partners have always been involved in the implementation process at every site. A local working group is established for every house of nature, including members from the Nature Conservation Agency, representatives of the future site operator, municipalities, NGO’s and other partners from the region.