Ecotourism: how enthusiasts from Bukovyna opened their own arboretum
And now there are more than a thousand trees planted from all over the world!
We can't imagine modern life without the prefix "eco". In stores, we see many eco-products as drinks, food, personal items, clothing, household items, packaging. Being a responsible consumer has become a sign of progress. Being a manufacturer that offers an eco-product means prestige. The trend of using a modern prefix has not bypassed the tourism industry. The Ukrainian tourist market currently offers many tours and objects with the prefix "eco", but not every one of its participants is aware of the classic view of this term, which has not only the mundane "nature trip" in its basis. Eco-tourism is a journey that combines recreation, entertainment, the role of local culture, the educational part, and the eco-consciousness of both those who offer tourist services and the travelers themselves.
Being conscious means not only taking care of what already exists but also enriching and multiplying it with the future in mind.
Thus, on the slopes of the Dniester, in Khotyn, one of the oldest cities in Ukraine, a local enthusiast with his family is creating a real dendrological park with an extensive collection of exclusive plantations, conifers, and flowering plants.
Ecotourism instead of a summer cottage
Vitalii Chynchyk is a native of Khotyn. He lived in Chernivtsi for many years, where he studied biology, worked in the department of urban planning and land relations, and thanks to his passion for mountaineering he traveled a lot around the world. At first, he didn't think about such a large-scale project as an arboretum; he planned to build a summer house in his family's place.
"We often came to our parents, rested near the Dniester. You can see beautiful landscapes from our slopes, very close to the Khotyn Fortress," Vitalii says. "Once, walking around, I came across this sad area. There was no water or gas here. The earth was solid clay and only abandoned old nuts and plums were among the trees. I remembered the places I had to visit, the man-made beauty of the various locations for tourists in different countries, and I thought: why not create a modern green area here with tourist infrastructure for ecological recreation?"
The brothers bought four lots of land near the fortress, old houses with land, and decided to build an arboretum in this area. It's harder to do on the Dniester slopes than in the woods or in the field. The northern wind "cuts off" the plants like a razor. The soil surface is slopping, and all the water flows into the river. So, first, they arranged terraces, so that water does not flow down. Vitalii planted the first three pines 18 years ago. With them, the story of the dendrological park began.
"We need to understand," says Vitalii, "that an arboretum is not a quick job. It takes 15-20 years for a tree to show itself in all its beauty, so it will take over one year to implement our plans fully. But we have something to brag about even now."
Plants from China, North America, Japan, and the Mediterranean grow on the dendrological park territory. Vitalii always brought plants from alpinist trips. "I once brought rhododendrons from the Caucasus," the arboretum's owner says, "we have alpine pine, Carpathian juniper from the Montenegrin ridge, California cedar, yew. We have sequoia, the thickest and tallest tree on the planet, and a rare metasequoia that grows in Central China. There is also a Carpathian cedar, a Red Book plant, that is almost disappearing. Trees are like people. They have their own biography, language, diseases. I want to understand an entire plant world and tell others about it. Hundreds of species will grow in our arboretum. It's not just a park, it's an entire ecosystem with birds, animals, grasses, flowers. There's nothing like it in Bukovyna. Ukrainians who may never go to China or America will see this wonderful variety here."
One of the park's highlights is Solomon's Labyrinth. They planted almost 550 boxwood bushes to create it. It still looks surprisingly aesthetically pleasing. And in a few years, the bushes will become a solid wall and tourists will wander the green corridors.
Vitalii's acquaintances who know about his hobby bring some specimens of rare plants, but the Chynchyk brothers mostly grow planting material on their own. For this purpose, they have set up three nurseries on the territory of the arboretum.
The process from seed or shoot takes up to five years. For some time the plants grow in pots, then they are planted in open ground. About 90 percent of the planting material takes root in the new place. There is an unbreakable rule in the arboretum: "If one tree has withered, plant three instead."
Over the years of the project's existing, the Chynchyk family has planted more than a thousand plants. According to Vitalii, one pine tree, already growing in the nursery, will be enough to provide oxygen to the whole of Khotyn. They share saplings with the local community, recently planted conifers near one school.
"I really want," the eco-enthusiast says, "to hold biology lessons for Khotyn students based on our park. I taught at one time, and I know that theory without practice is a dead science. I have already talked to teachers about it. Unfortunately, now we are a little disturbed by quarantine, but they promised to come with the students. We are looking forward to them! We are also working with Khotyn National Park and the Botanical Garden of Chernivtsi National University. Scientists can do different research here."
Vitalii himself gladly does tours for all who come to admire his work. He especially likes to tell children about rare plants. For the sake of tours, he always postpones all his duties.
"I was surprised," Vitalii recalls, "that some children now don't distinguish between nuts and acorns. We are soon close to stating that cheese is made from dumplings. That is why I consider educational activities one of the most important components of our project."
The park plans to equip three zones. They will set aside one for dendro-camping. Here you can set up tents. For lovers of a more comfortable vacation, they will equip individual houses in alpine style. Tourists can stay in a comfortable mini-hotel farm and spend a few days in this charming and interesting place.
"It's not a business project," the owner stresses, "it's a project for consciousness. It is financially unprofitable with our infrastructure, roads, people's mentality. Somewhere in Europe, it might bring profit. We could get state aid to support it. But here I saw many officials putting their hands to their hearts and sincerely telling me: We understand, but it's NOT ON TIME. We always have some more important things like medicine, roads, pensions… That's why I do it myself. I just love it, I live by it. I invest everything I earn in the arboretum.
We have many plans. In one of the authentic huts we have preserved, we'll make a museum of Ukrainian life after the renovation. One of the local collectors is ready to give away his collection for 100 square meters. Here we plan to build a playground, put benches, equip additional areas for fishermen and recreation. We want tourists from all of Ukraine and abroad to come to us. We want to be proud of our country."