Grabovača Cave Park - the only cave park in the world
The Grabovača Cave Park is the only cave park in Croatia. The Grabovača has an invaluable wealth of underground karst forms, as much as 1/4 of the total number of protected speleological objects in Croatia. The public institution "Cave Park Grabovača" manages three caves, which are also geomorphological monuments of nature since 1964 - Cave Samograd, Medina and Amidžina cave. In the immediate vicinity, there are other caves - Velika Kozarica, Mala Kozarica, Tabakuša and Slapica Dam.
Ms. Jelena Milković is the director of the Cave Park Grabovača, which has gathered a group of young and talented people who want change and progress. Behind them are numerous successful projects, fairs, actions and events that always have the theme of conservation and nature protection, which is the result of an increase of the number of visitors by as much as 43%.
We would like to thank Mrs Milkovic at a separate time, and what has revealed to us all about the only cave park in Croatia find out in the text.
The Grabovača Cave Park is the only such park in Europe, how are you satisfied with the visitor's acquaintance with this fact?
We are not satisfied because the Grabovača Cave Park with its richness of underground karstic forms has yet to be affirmed as a unique natural attraction, which is why it is worth to get off the Zagreb-Split motorway.
Since your team consists of young people, does this mean that young people in Lika are interested in speleology or have problems finding a work force?
I find that young people in Lika are unfortunately still not sufficiently familiar with the concept of speleology. But we do not have any problems with finding a workforce because a lot of young people want to become part of the Cave Park team. I suppose they like our spirit and positivity.
How does the local population comment on the park, do they realize the importance and beauty the park contributes to their end?
The local population mostly comments positively on the Cave Park or have no opinion about us. Basically, the vast majority of us are still identifying with Perušić, they simply can not distinguish the municipality from one side and the public institution on the other. The part of the population who is well acquainted with the park and work of the Institution mainly understands the potential of Grabovača and that we can be an important "wheel" in the development of this part of Lika. The problem is that everyone is expecting success "overnight" and they do not realize that this is a lengthy process.
What is co-operation with the local population?
We are satisfied with our cooperation with the local community, always responding and assisting us when we look for them.
What is the Grabovača Cave Park Special?
The specialty of the Cave Park lies in the fact that we are the only such park not only in Europe but also in the world. In the broader boundaries of the park we have so far explored 30 speleological objects with a long tradition of exploration and visiting. We have a lot more but we have not yet investigated them. In addition, the public is relatively unknown and the fact that there are caves of Budina Ice Ridge with rare L forms sharks and are the only such type of cave in this part of Europe.
Do you think that Lika needs more attention to speleology and cave tourism?
Speleotourism as a branch of tourism is still underdeveloped not only in Lika but also throughout Croatia. Yes, I think we should pay more attention to speleology and cave tourism, especially because the whole Lika is abundant in caves, and some of them are also important archaeological sites.
Behind you are a very successful year, you have done a number of projects, humanitarian fairs, actions and a number of other events, which they would specifically outline and why?
Particularly I can distinguish the event we started in 2017, which is the Christmas spell on Grabovača. Thanks to the great efforts and work of the Institution staff (Tomislav, Mario, Tea, Marko) and our permanent associate to the head of the National Library, Josip Milkovic, the event is more and more visited every year. Somehow, this event is our favorite, especially we are looking forward to making Christmas jewelry, creating new areas for kids, new content ... Apart from these "special" manifestations, we are all equally dear to us. Every manifestation is invested with a lot of work, creativity and effort with minimal cash investment. I can also mention the "Green Fair" event that we launched last year. We are extremely pleased with the results and the number of reputed exhibitors, especially considering the fact that we have never before organized something like this and none of us had any experience in organizing such a manifestation. Thanks to all those who help us realize all the ideas and manifestations, and thanks to the Municipality Perušić and our "Utilities" (Perušić d.o.o.) who are not always the clearest of our ideas ("what the poet wanted to say") but they always support us unreservedly. We particularly welcome the fact that we made significant progress in the development of volunteer and scout tourism. Last year we had a lot of scouting groups at Grabovača, and in 2019 we have an increasing number of queries.
You often host volunteers from different parts of the world through Erasmus +, can you tell us more about these volunteer programs?
We started with volunteer projects in 2015 and so far have implemented six projects. We are very pleased with this type of project, not only that we as a Institution have promotion and assistance in the realization of ideas, but also the local community has great benefits. Each year, Grabovača hosts a foreign language course, a summer school for kids and a host of other activities and contents. This year, together with volunteers from Ukraine, Sicily and Cyprus, we plan to make a small garden with lime, healing and edible plants. We have also signed up for another volunteer project, we hope we will be approved, and with this project and volunteers we would make a sensory park for children with special needs. I would like to emphasize the fact that volunteers who come to such projects are in the hands of a highly educated young person who is currently in the job search stage or between two jobs.
NP Plitvice Lakes last year in cooperation with Lika Destination Cluster formed a info point of Lika destination during the summer season, where visitors, among other protected areas, could also find out about PP Grabovača. What is your opinion about the info point?
I think that the idea of forming Info Punk in NP Plitvice Lakes is excellen. All these years Plitvice was closed for the rest of Lika and finally opened their "doors"! Over one million tourists go through the National Park and it's great for us all.
Also, you have been cooperating for a joint ticket of Lika destina- tion last year. What are your comments on this collaboration? Are you satisfied with ticket sales?
We (I) are satisfied with the cooperation. Again I repeat, marketing is important to us. Plitvice is the most famous Croatian national park and every mention of the name "Grabovača" is an important promotion. Thanks to Plitvice Lakes National Park!
What is your opinion on the association of all protected areas in the Lika destination and the branding of the Lika destination as a protected area destination?
I think this is a great idea because no such initiatives have been made so far. Each protected area was working separately and joined together in an initiative like Lika's destination we can all do much more for the development of protected areas as well as whole Lika. Investment in Branding Lika destination is important because the protected areas of Lika can be the drivers of development not only in the local environment, but also in the entire Lika region. Every park brochure or any other advertising campaign of the Cave Park carries the tag #LikaDestination, not much but we can help to brand Lika's destination.
In 2018, Grabovača Cave Park recorded an increase in the number of visitors by as much as 43%, which in your opinion is the main reason for this?
The main development of the number of visits has been increased investment in marketing. An advertising sticker we set up in Zagreb was very important for the promotion of the area.
What are the plans for the future? Can we expect novelties and / or changes in the park?
We hope that this year, we will be able to permanently protect the landscape in the category.
We also plan to open a new educational, biological path and a new panoramic viewpoint with forest organs. We are also planning to continue working on the extension of the parking lot for visitors and the continuation of works on the uniform arrangement of entrance to the park, organizing numerous events to get closer to the general public. This is the first time we started investing in content marketing or in cooperation with Midas from Zagreb, we are working on a brand awareness campaign for the Cave Park.