In Prague and beyond, animal habitats and historical sites are being disrupted with winter fun

National parks, protected, landscaped, and memorial sites have visitor rules; learn where you can and can't sled, skate, or hike this winter.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston
Published on 25.01.2021 16:33 (updated on 25.01.2021)

Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, more people than usual have been going to nature areas in the Czech Republic for recreation. This has caused problems ranging from disturbing wild animals to disrespect of historical locations. All of the Czech Republic’s parks, nature areas, and memorials have visitor rules but many people have been ignoring them.

For protected nature areas, recreational use is allowed provided that it does not damage the natural values of the protected area. Signs at the locations often spell out rules in detail, especially when it comes to issues like parking and creating fires.

Sometimes there are restrictions on which trails bikes can use, and where sledding, snowboarding, or skiing is allowed. Hikers also are supposed to stay on trails in some nature areas so as not to damage plants and disturb wildlife.

On the eastern edge of Prague, there is a nature park called Klánovice, with five specially protected areas. Boars have been an issue there for several years, and local joggers and dog walkers have been cautioned to stay to the paths and be alert. Dogs should not be let off their leashes.

While hiking, bike riding, and horseback riding are allowed in the forest, disturbing nature in the broad sense is not. Wandering into the remote areas where wildlife lives should not be done both for safety and preservation reasons.

Recently, the forest has acquired a new attraction that has drawn more people into the woods. A bollard marking the eastern edge of Prague’s territory has been placed there. It is one of four directional poles placed by Janek Rubeš, known online as the Honest Guide, to give people places to go outside of the city center.

The pole in Klánovice is directly in a place where boars congregate. The influx of people has disturbed the boars, who have gone closer to populated areas. This has led to local hunting group Šesterák Klánovice having to cull some of them to keep them under control.

The Klánovice Town Hall has asked people to limit disturbances to to wildlife, and has also asked the Prague Institute for Planning and Development (IPR Praha), which was involved in the project, to move the pole to a less remote area. The western pole already is in an inexact location as the actual spot was on the other side of a fence on property used by Václav Havel Airport Prague.

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“Unfortunately, a regular intense stream of visitors who decided to ‘conquer’ all four poles drove the wild boars towards Klánovice, Šestajovice, and Úvaly. A nice idea thus abolished the natural place for wildlife, which naturally belongs to nature,” the Klanovice Town Hall said on Facebook.

They also suggested some rules for people. “Please, if you are bothered by the occasional encounter with wild boars along the forest border, limit all activities that scare them. Do not shoot off noisemakers, do not ride in the woods on motorcycles and ATVs, behave quietly while walking, do not let dogs go free, at night only walk on the asphalt and main hiking trails. And if you don't have to, don't disturb the animals at the easternmost point of Prague,” they said.

An incident that gained a lot of attention on social media occurred last week, when snowfall attracted people to go sledding snowboarding on the hills at Lidice, a memorial site to occupants of a town who were massacred during World War II. The town is some 14 kilometers northwest of Prague.

Memorial director Eduard Stehlík and Lidice Mayor Veronika Kellerová both appealed to people to show more respect for the locations where people died.

Lidice does have a list of visitor rules. While sledding isn’t specifically mentioned, people are not allowed to leave marked paths and are required to “behave according to the rules of civil coexistence with the respect appropriate to the historical, social and cultural importance of the Lidice Memorial.” Cars are also not allowed to park in the area of the memorial.

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Mayor Kellerová said local children in Lidice have always sledded, but not at graves, sites of former houses, or other reverent locations. It was only a few children and nobody minded, she told Czech Television.

“But now, probably due to the coronavirus situation, there were about 70 cars here in one day," she said.

Stehlík said the problems aren’t confined to winter. People have been making picnics and driving quad bikes on the memorial’s area, ignoring warnings from staff.

One of the Czech Republic’s most famous and popular nature destinations, the Šumava National Park in South Bohemia, has become popular for winter hiking. It also attracted skaters to its frozen lakes at the turn of the new year. This is both unsafe and strictly banned.

“The frozen surface of any glacial lake in the territory of the Šumava National Park and Protected Landscape Area is not a public ice rink that can be entered. The areas of all glacial lakes are part of either the quiet zones or part of the National Nature Reserve, to which entry outside the marked routes is prohibited,” Šumava National Park said on social media

A guard warned warned people about the rules and was verbally attacked. “He tried to explain that this is not only a violation of the law, but that this activity has a negative impact on the unique nature of glacial lakes,” Šumava National Park said.

Problems have also been encountered at the protected landscape at Brdy, a former military area in Central Bohemia. Despite a ban on cars in the protected area, police last year recorded 242 incidents of unauthorized parking, which is an increase of 117 cases compared to the previous year.

In December 2020 alone police officers documented 78 violations of rules for parking motor vehicles near the village of Orlov in a place called Točna.

“In times of emergency, people visit nature more; unfortunately some of them need to come as close to the forest as possible despite the ban on parking," Monika Schindlová, a spokeswoman for the Příbram police, said.