A project of the Swiss-Czech Cooperation Programme in the Geopark Ralsko (CZ)
The history of Geopark Ralsko
The NGO Geopark Ralsko was founded in March 2013 with the mission of developing a geopark in the territory of the former military training area Ralsko, to make the geological, natural, historical and cultural values of the area accessible to the public and to strengthen the economic and social situation of the region through sustainable development. 
Because it was a former military training area, the territory was relatively untouched by direct human activity over the last 60 years. Many of the localities are protected by law and some of them are listed on the biogenetic reservations of the European Council for their exceptional value. 
The historical character of the cultural landscape has been disrupted 

  • by displacement of the German inhabitants from the area after the end of the WWII (that in fact meant evacuation of the whole area)
  • by the existence of the former military training area Ralsko 
  • by the existence of remnants of past uranium mining (including contamination of groundwater and soil). 

All theseaspects significantly affect the attitude of the inhabitants to the area. The quality of life, cooperation and commonality were disrupted by the historical events. 
The present situation
The project team is now in the process of developing the management plan and of implementing different projects and actions. One main goal is to create a Heritage Interpretation Strategy and other measures which they can use for the further development process. Thanks to the Swiss-Czech Cooperation Program this project was able to start. Knowledge transfer and training workshops should help us to learn more about heritage interpretation; what are its benefits and challenges. Working together with the Geopark Sarganserland / UNESCO Tektonikarena Sardona and the Institute of Landscape and Open Space of the University of Applied Sciences in Switzerland (HSR) practical experiences can be exchanged and related to an international frame of the Alpine Area, and similarly to other eastern European countries such as Bulgaria or Slovakia.
A first workshop in heritage interpretation at the beginning of December 2015, guided by Thorsten Ludwig (Bildungswerk interpretation) and Ulf Zimmermann (HSR), enabled the team to gain initial experience with this interesting method. The participants learned about anchoring phenomena,  meaningful theme statements, the difference between information and interpretation etc. Although it was pretty cold outside and everybody would have preferred a heated classroom, everyone was impressed by the professional but also simple examples provided the trainers. The outside-training, the presentations and the  good practice examples of other areas motivated the Geoparkteam to set off in that direction. 
Nevertheless, it will be a challenge to convince the different stakeholders in the region to support the process, but we hope this tiny seed provides a a much greater opportunity. 

Further information about the project:
Geopark Ralsko o.p.s.
Mgr. Lenka Mrázová – reditelka
Sidlo: Kurivody 701, 471 24 Ralsko
E-mail: info@geoparkralsko.cz
Tel.: +420 739 354 701
Ulf Zimmermann, Institute of Landscape and Open Space, Switzerland (ulf.zimmermann@biosfera.ch) 

To cite this article:
Zimmermann, U. (2015) ‘Heritage interpretation used for regional development’. In Interpret Europe Newsletter 4-2015, 10-11. 
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