Parks Beyond Borders: Norway's 1st Park Is 50, Crusader Coins In Israel, Tanzania More Than Kilamanjaro, Budget Threatens Canada Urban Park

Norway's first "nasjonalpark," Rondane (pronounced Ron-dawn-uh) turns 50 this year. A variety of special events, including group treks, are being planned to celebrate this soaring alpine landscape. Ten percent of Norway is national parks. Photo courtesy www.visitnorway.com. Map courtesy National Parks Norway.

Norway’s First National Park Celebrates 50th Anniversary

The half century mark for Rondane National Park (roughly pronounced Ron-dawn-uh) isn’t until December 21st, but the savvy Norwegians know that’s a dreadfully dark, cold part of the Scandinavian winter. That’s why “August 11 has been set aside as Nasjonalparkdagen, to commemorate the birth of all of Norway’s national parks, which now number 41,” says the website Views and News from Norway. The 372-square mile park is near Otta in eastern Norway south of Trondheim.

Norway’s first nasjonalpark “started with Rondane in 1962, late compared to the US’ initiative to start protecting its most spectacular scenery with the creation of Yellowstone National Park in 1872,” says the site. “Given Norway’s small population and vast areas of mountains and fjords, the need to protect specific portions of its great outdoors was perhaps not seen as acute, but in the 1950s, a fjelloppsynsmann (warden in the mountains) named Norman Heitkøtter launched a conservation debate, not least because of the wild reindeer known to wander in the Rondane area.”

The article further explained the park’s creation quoting an article in Fjell og Vidde magazine that it ‘took time before those of us in Norway realized that valuable nature could disappear if we didn’t secure it against certain forms of human influence,’ wrote Marius Nergård Pettersen, noting how neighbouring Sweden created its own first national park in 1909. All told, 10% of Norway is now national parks.

The article said Rondane “has a special place in Norwegian history and also art ... with its peaks used in what’s considered Norway’s most popular landscape painting, Vinternatt i Rondane (Winter Night in the Mountains) by Harald Sohlberg, which hangs in the National Gallery in Oslo.”

A variety of commemorative organized treks will be part of the celebration. Download a pdf guide to Norway’s national parks here. Check out Norway's tourism page on the park. The Rondane Trail around the park takes about twenty days to hike.

Coins From the Crusades Unearthed at Israeli National Park

Israel’s Appolonia National Park has turned up a haul of ancient dinar gold coins from the time of the Crusades. A combined team of investigators from the Israeli Nature and Parks Authority and Tel Aviv University discovered what’s believed to be about half a million dollars of the coins.

FoxNews.com quoted Professor Oren Tal, chairman of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Archaeology, saying “All in all, we found some 108 dinals and quarter dinars, which makes it one of the largest gold coin hoards discovered in a medieval site in the land of Israel.”

The site, a coastal fortification since Roman times, was occupied by the Crusaders between 1241 and 1265. The Christian order of the Knights Hospitaller were in residence and before the site was taken by a large Muslim army, it appears that the coins were place in a jug and buried. Amazingly, the site was never resettled.

The Fox story said, the coins “date to the times of the Fatimid empire, which dominated northern Africa and parts of the Middle East at the time. Tal estimates their date to the 10th and 11th centuries, although they were circulated in the 13th century.”

Tal was quoted saying, “Some were minted some 250 to 300 years before they were used by the Hospitaller knights. ... The coins are covered in icons and inscriptions: the names and legends of local sultans, Tal said, as well as blessings.” The article said the coins are a trove of information because they are so festooned with details, stories, and more that they are actually hard to read.

The park’s Website says two hiking trails explore the area. “One follows the cliff and is suitable for experienced hikers. The other is a level route suitable for wheelchair-users, other mobility-challenged visitors and strollers.”

“One highlight at Apollonia National Park is the Roman villa,” the site says. It is “visible from the lookout point, where a sign reveals a three-dimensional plan of the building. The heart of the visit is the cliff-top Crusader fortress overlooking the Mediterranean. The fortress, which contains a number of rooms and a collection of authentic ballistae balls, is surrounded by a wide moat.”

Tanzania Park Chief Laments Visitor Focus on Serengeti, Kilamanjaro

In an article published on the AllAfrica Web site, the Director General of TANAPA, the Tanzania National Parks, Allan Kijazi, lamented that the “Northern Circuit” national parks in the country—Serengeti National Park, Mount Kilimanjaro, Lake Manyara, Arusha and Tarangire Game Parks, see about 90 per cent of the nearly one million international visitors that the country gets each year.

That leaves ten of the country’s fifteen national parks very under-visited. The article said the “government is working on a plan to open up the Southern Corridor through ambitious road construction projects but more efforts are needed to make the world aware of the south and encourage tourists to visit the Western and Southern parts of the country." Check out this of Tanzania's parks.

Kijazi said, "Soon the Saa-Nane Island in Lake Victoria will make the country's sixteenth National Park, while Ruaha which is found in the Southern Circuit , the biggest National Park, yet as far as tourists are concerned, Tanzania is only the land of Serengeti and Kilimanjaro.”

Kijazi spoke during a domestic tourism press briefing for journalists working near parks in the Northern Zone and encouraged them to promote Southern Zone parks. Part of Kijazi’s speech touched on the fact that domestic tourism is very low with “very few locals visiting the country's attractions.” The article said tourism in Tanzania ranks second after mining.

Budget Woes Step Into Politics of New Canadian National Park

Rouge Park in Toronto, slated to become Canada’s first urban national park, is hitting a slow down as Ontario politicians are asking to be paid for the land that would be turned over to the federal government as a park.

An article in The Star said, “Ottawa has earmarked $143.7 million over the next 10 years to develop Canada’s ‘first national urban park’ and will spend an additional $7 million annually on operating and infrastructure costs. But Queen’s Park is demanding ‘adequate compensation’ for provincial land it would transfer to the federal government. In a June 24 letter to (federal Environment Minister Peter) Kent, (provincial Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Bob) Chiarelli said the province protected and restored two-thirds of the proposed parkland at ‘significant expense’ over the years. ‘We’ve asked to be fairly compensated, with an eye on protecting and preserving these lands. That could include the federal government investing in a different provincial project,’ Chiarelli’s press secretary David Salter said Tuesday.”

Kent said, “I would hope that in the days and weeks ahead the Ontario government will come to its senses and appreciate what’s at risk here if they try to hold up the project.”