Mt Ochi Protection

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Protection and promotion of the environment of Mt Ochi

The first steps towards protecting and promoting the environment of Mt Ochi were taken by mountain climbers and a few local nature lovers.

Encouraged by Simon Karras (standing left), Giannis Gikas (standing, right) conducted ethnographic investigations, which revealed the cultural wealth of the region. (photo: Stamatis Papamichael)

Before WWII, many mountain climbers from Athens were familiar with Mt Ochi and would go to the effort of making an entire trip to ascend the mountain. After embarking on a caïque at the port of Rafina, they would arrive at Karystos (a real adventure at the time) and then proceed to the villages with their endless groves of densely planted citrus trees. They would continue up the traditional trails (there were no roads then) to finally emerge high up on the mountain, above Karystos. Going back in time, we discover that, beginning in the 18th century, the region was lovingly and avidly explored by many notable personalities:

1797. On October 10, 1797, the British geographer, M. P. Hawkins, discovered the drakospito atop Mt Ochi and called it an “age-old temple”. When this information was published in 1820, the region became a magnet for various adventureseeking explorers. To this day, over forty explorers have mentioned this monument atop Mt Ochi.

Boy scouts on an excursion to the Mt Ochi refuge in 1963. (photo: Stamatis Papamichael)

1855. The naturalist A. Lindermayer published the first report on the fauna of Evia, containing the first catalogues of fauna species, many of which no longer exist on the island.

1932. The first organised exploration of the cave of Aghia Triada was carried out by the group “Ypaithria Zoi” (Outdoor Life).

1937. In a speech on tourist development in Evia at the Parnassos Philological Society, Tassos Zappas, a writer and folklorist from Evia, as well as a pioneer of outdoor touring in Greece, stressed the need to create a mountain refuge. Before WWII, the Mt Ochi region had already attracted the attention of nature lovers. The refuge would serve the mountain climbers and nature lovers who wanted to discover Mt Ochi, the perfect balcony over the Aegean and the Evoikos Gulf.

1943. Foundation of the Karystos Progressive Youth Society. Excursions exploring the mountain began to take place.

1954. Foundation of the Karystos Progressive Society. Stamatis Papamichael zealously supported organising hiking excursions on the mountain.

1957. Tassos Zappas, Stamatis Papamichael and Georgios Mylas (Union of Travelling Associations of Greece—OESE), selected the construction site for the mountain refuge. The money for the project would come from the Nikolaos K. Giokalas Foundation and the OESE.

1961. After studying the plant species of Evia, as other prominent botanists had done before, the Austrian botanist K. Rechinger published the first monogram on the island’s flora. No systematic study of the local flora—of Mt Ochi especially—has ever been carried out.

1962. Construction of the Mt Ochi refuge, the first in Evia; it was officially opened on October 21, 1962. The effort was supported by the Municipality of Karystos. Management was assumed by the Giokaleion Cultural Foundation. Thanks to the establishment of the refuge, many organisations, groups and foreign visitors discovered the mountain. On a national level, people became familiar with the hiking and climbing routes Mt Ochi had to offer.

1979. Foundation of Karystos Environment Protection Society. This association worked to prevent the construction of a nuclear power station in Platanistos. In south Evia, opposition to this construction was unanimous.

1980. Foundation of the Karystos Naturalist and Folklore Society

Early 1980s. Scientific and academic interest in the region grew. With the support of the Canadian Archaeological Institute at Athens, the Southern Evia Exploration Project (S.E.E.P.) was founded. This is a research organisation, where many, primarily foreign, scholars collaborate on cultural and environmental studies of the region. Indeed, environmental scientists from Ghent University in Belgium made a notable contribution. The first Greek “environmental study” on the Cavo d’Oro region took place under the auspices of the programme of the Undersecretariat of Youth “Youth Ecological and Developmental Initiatives—Forgotten Greece” This was organised by J. Diamantopoulos (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki).

1984. Completion of the Special Land-Use Study of Evia, which proposed tourism exploitation, while at the same time protecting the Demosaris Gorge, the peaks of Mt Ochi, Kastanolongos and Cape Kafireas.

Special Land-Use Study of Evia

Mid 1980s. The municipality of Karystos implemented a proposal, centred on the Demosaris Gorge, to develop tourism on Mt Ochi. The proposal had a dual purpose: Primarily, to divert water from the source of the river in order to meet the water needs of Karystos and, secondly, to develop the tourist industry of the gorge. A road leading to the source of the river was constructed, which downgraded certain parts of the gorge, provoking reactions from nature lovers familiar with the region.

1985. The Ministry of Agriculture proposed the creation of an aesthetic forest in the Demosaris Gorge. This proposal provoked a storm of protests from the local community, since it was rumoured that goats and sheep would be forbidden to graze in the gorge. Under these circumstances, it did not advance beyond the planning stage.

1987. Mt Ochi and the Karystos Valley wetland were added to the Corine Biotopes database for the protection of the most important nature preserves in the European Union.

1989. Mt Ochi and the surrounding area were included in the official catalogue of the important bird regions of Europe by the International Council for Bird Preservation (I.C.B.P.). That same year, the Hellenic Ornithological Society submitted a proposal to create a “park in the wetland and plain of Karystos”. The municipal council accepted the proposed restrictions, which, however, remain unimplemented due to the proprietary status quo of the wetland.

1991. Renovation of the Mt Ochi refuge. Although in the beginning of the 1960s, the refuge was established in a pioneering effort to draw attention to Mt Ochi, in the 1980s, it was abandoned and vandalised. A movement to renovate the refuge began in 1991, with the participation of local youths, coordinated by the teacher Athanassios Biniaris. The renovated refuge began operating in 1994 and is considered one of the best supplied and organised small refuges of Greece.

1994 - 1995. A Pan-Hellenic research programme, coordinated by the Greek Biotope/ Wetland Centre (EKBY), with the participation of Greek universities, identified and demarcated various areas throughout Greece for protection and incorporation in the European Union’s Natura 2000 Network. The Greek government sent a complete catalogue of the areas marked for nature preservation at the beginning of 1995. The Natura 2000 National Catalogue deemed the Mt Ochi region (Mt. Ochi - Karystos Valley - Platanistos river - Cape Kafireas) to be a level one nature preservation priority.

1996. Parts of the Mt Ochi region were designated as “regions of particular natural beauty” (Hellenic Ministry for the Environment, Physical Planning and Public Works programme) and incorporated into the National Technical University’s Database for the Natural Environment of Greece.

For many naturalists, discovering a rare species, such as these peonies on the slopes of Mt Ochi, is awe-inspiring.

1997. The South Karystia Environment Protection Society was established.

1997 - 2006. The Prefectural Self-Government of Evia carried out a programme to protect and promote the Demosaris Gorge and the greater Mt Ochi region, which was funded by the European Union (National Operational Programme for the Environment-EPPER). Consequently, a well-defined trail was created in the Demosaris gorge, the access route to Petrokanalo was upgraded and a new information kiosk was acquired. The Karystia Environmental Information Centre was also built at Kalyvia, Karystos. In 1998, a special environmental study evaluated, defined and suggested objectives for the protection of the natural environment of the broader Mt Ochi region. Great public interest in this region had developed recently. Additionally, nowadays one observes a wave of activities that, whether involving outdoor recreation or environmental protection, provide encouragement and hope for the future of Greece’s natural heritage.

Exploring the peaks of Mt Ochi is a rare experience.

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