One of Estonia's national parks celebrates its 50th jubilee this weekend, an event which is being marked by a variety of events through the rest of May and into early June.
Lahemaa National Park (Lahemaa Rahvuspark), in Lääne-Viru County and about 50 km east of Tallinn, marks its half century from Saturday, with the celebrations starting in the village of Palmse and to be followed in other villages lying in the park's terrain throughout the weekend, the environment ministry says.
The events also honor the role of local residents down the years in making the park what it is, the ministry says.
Scientific conferences on various topics connected with Lahemaa also take place on Monday and Tuesday.
Environment Minister Tõnis Mölder (Center) says that Lahemaa, as the first and oldest of Estonia's national parks, contributed enormously towards the rise of an Estonian national consciousness during the Soviet occupation.
"The beautiful and historic Lahemaa has become a part of us and continues to be important today," Mölder said, according to a ministry press release.
Lahemaa is one of six national parks in Estonia, covering north, south, east and west, and the first to be founded, and at close to 750 sq. km, also the largest. The others are Alutaguse (Ida-Viru County), Karula (borders of Võru and Valga counties), Matsalu (Lääne County), Soomaa (Viljandi County) and Vilsandi (Saaremaa).
Lahemaa is home to the Viru Bog (Viru Raba), a popular destination, and is noted for its biodiversity and presence of protected species of flora and fauna. Noteworthy wild boar, red deer, wolf, bear and lynx populations have also made Lahemaa their habitat.
Over 30 jubilee events will take place, following the opening ceremony at Palmse Manor (Estonian: Mõis), an iconic site within the park's territory.
Three other manors (Vihula, Sagedi and Kolga) are also located within Lahemaa national park.
The international jubilee on Monday and Tuesday will allow audiences to learn about both international and Lahemaa-specific conservation issues from leaders, the ministry says, and will involve experts and head scientists from international and European nature conservation organizations.
Environmental Board (Keskkonnaamet) Natural Resource Management Department specialist Maret Vildak, who also acts as an organizer for the jubilee's events, said: "The speakers will focus on topics that impact the future of our world, such as the loss and conservation of biodiversity, ecosystems and their assessment, climate change and adapting to it, community-centered heritage protection and cultural biodiversity. Those interested are welcome to join in, both on-site in Palmse or through the internet," (link in Estonian).
Riho Kuppart, Director General of the Environmental Board, says the values connected with the Lahemaa National Park have remained strong thanks to the assistance of the local community.
"On behalf of the Environmental Board, I wish to thank everyone who participates in the activities of the national park's cooperation council. Celebrating Lahemaa's 50th birthday through events that take place all throughout the jubilee year shows us, once again, that the locals, heritage protectors and nature conservationists all care for Lahemaa deeply," Kuppart said.
COVID-19 restrictions require attendees be capped at 250, though the presentation of an accompanying book, entitled "Precious Lahemaa" on Saturday morning and the jubilee conference "Lahemaa National Park 50: Nature and Culture, Past and Future" on Monday and Tuesday are to be corralled via smaller groups and online, Maret Vildak said.
The ministry also presented conservationist and professor of conservation and landscaping at the Estonian University of Life Sciences (Eesti Maaülikool) Kalev Sepp with the Eerik Kumar nature conservation prize, along with a gold shield for his conservation efforts.
Silver shields for conservation efforts were also handed out, and the Environmental Board recognized several others for their work in protecting and representing Lahemaa National Park.
Additionally, the Viru Institute recognized the guardian of Viru county's cultural heritage (Virumaa kultuuripärandi vardja), the ministry says.
Noted musicians Kadri Voorand and Mihkel Mälgand gave a concert at Palmse.
"We recommend that everyone find themselves either an educational or exciting event from the jubilee program or explore somewhere new in Lahemaa. Lahemaa is densely packed with beautiful places to sightsee, hopefully everyone can find a place to enjoy nature or culture," Maret Vildak went on.
ETV morning magazine show "Terevisioon" is also due to broadcast Tuesday's edition from Palmse, and is set to take a look at the creation of the national park, Lahemaa's values and how life is currently being organized within the park.
Editor: Andrew Whyte