This publication has been produced with the assistance of the European Union. The contents of the publication is the sole responsibility of City of Lieksa and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union.
The Muezersky District, Republic of Karelia, Russia and the Lieksa Town, Finland, share nearly 100 km of the national border.
The nature of the territories has, in addition to some peculiar features, a lot in common. For instance, River Lieksa originates from the Muezersky District and flows down to the town of Lieksa across the well-known and actively used Ruunaa area. The area is now one of the most popular sites for nature-based tourism in the south of Finland: over 100,000 tourists visit the rapids on River Ruunaa annually.
The Muezersky District also possesses unique recreational potential for water tourism development: e.g. lakes Leksozero, Tulos and rapids on River Lenderka in the settings of scenic virgin forested landscapes harmoniously integrating traditional Karelian villages. Nonetheless, the natural values of the Muezersky District at large and the Leksozero and Tulos areas in particular appear as a "blank spot" to most people both in Russia and in Finland; the promotion materials are extremely scant and the related infrastructure is virtually non-existent.
On the other hand, Finnish experts postulate that many of the tourists coming to the Ruunaa area in Finland would have loved to visit also the Leksozero area in Republic of Karelia. The area is just 100 away from the centre of the Lieksa town, and the trip to Lendery via the Inari checkpoint would only take a few hours. At present, however, the Inari checkpoint serves only the freight transport, and tourists willing to visit the Leksozero area would have to take the circuitous route, via Kostomuksha, which takes over 24 hours by car, along poor, particularly in spring and autumn, roads.
The current economic situation in the Muezersky District is noted for high unemployment, urging people to migrate to other districts. Forest industries constitute the basis of the economy. Tourism development in the district could effect a fairly rapid positive change in the situation with employment.
Thus, development of transboundary nature-based tourism in the border areas of the Muezersky District and the Lieksa town is a promising and mutually beneficial way of co-operation. The town of Lieksa and the Finnish Forest and Park Service (Metsahallitus) possess extensive experience in managing ecological, particularly water tourism in the Ruunaa area, and a well-developed tourism infrastructure. Muezersky District can offer the great nature potential so far hardly at all used in tourism. By joining the efforts of Russian and Finnish experts in developing nature tourism in the area we shall give fresh impetus to the development of the Muezersky District economy and help attract more tourists to the Ruunaa area by offering new tourist products.
Nature tourism development, however, must go side by side with environment protection, and the economy cannot develop to the prejudice of the nature. Accordingly, tourism to be developed in the Muezersky District should be accommodated to the nature, cultural values and interests of local people. Of great importance in this connection are the issues of ecological and social sustainability of tourist activities. Nature protection issues and environmental education should be on the agenda of all stakeholders, and active local involvement in the process through the use of local products and services where possible is necessary. Sustainable development rests on modern scientific knowledge, which is widely used in training, education and awareness activities. All these principles shall be taken into account at all project implementation stages.
Furthermore, the project objectives and tasks are in compliance with the priorities and guidelines of the EU Water Framework Directive concerning sustainable development of transboundary water resources, and the Republic of Karelia Transboundary Co-operation Programme for 2001-2006, supporting transboundary co-operation in the field of nature tourism development, improvement of border-crossing capacities and customs infrastructure, scientific collaboration and twinning arrangements between Republic of Karelia towns and districts and Finnish communes and towns.
Project target groups
Muezersky District population: the project gives local people a chance to contribute to local development through participation in a number of the project activities. The project model area Lendery - Reboly has a population of about 3,300 people (Muezersky District population is 18,500).
Entrepreneurs involved in nature tourism and related businesses
(e.g., supplies of foodstuffs and equipment for tourists): close collaboration between Finnish and Russian entrepreneurs within the project will provide both with new experience, knowledge and ideas for the development of their activities in the field of tourism.
Researchers and educators will gain more knowledge of the socio-economic, resource and ecological status of the Muezersky District, so that the district development scenarios can be forecasted and recommendations on the conservation and sane management of the unique natural heritage worked out.
An active network will be established through interactions of all target groups in the course of the project implementation.