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Mountaineering club St. Michael – builders of a shelter and renovators of an old path on Dinara

One of the most active mountaineering associations in the wider Dinara is HPK St. Michael, a relatively young and enthusiastic associatons from Šibenik, which has so far achieved a number of enviable results in its mountaineering work, from climbing through descents to construction, largely on the Dinara.

The Croatian Mountaineering Club St. Michael (Hrvatski planinarski klub Sveti Mihovil – HPK Sv. Mihovil) was founded at the end of 1995 by a group of mountaineers with many years of experience who decided with great desire and will to implement new ideas and activities in their field. The club was founded with great perseverance by the first president of the new society, Zlatibor Prgin, who tragically passed away on the Club’s expedition to Aconcagua (6950m) in 1999. The club has about 250 members.

After seventy years of intermittent mountaineering in Šibenik, the founding of St. Michael was the beginning of demanding ascents in foreign mountains, which laid the foundation for the development of Šibenik’s high mountain hiking, mountaineering, paragliding and speleology.

Zlatko Prgin – a shelter with a view

The key facilities in the mountains are shelters – places of rest, security and socializing – and one of them was built on the Dinara thanks primarily to the great efforts of members of St. Michael Club. In 2019 the mountain shelter Zlatko Prgin (1543 m above sea level) was opened at the south slopes of Dinara. It is situated in the beech grove near Bukvina vrh, at the intersection of the trail that goes from Brezovac to the top of Dinara and the trail that leads from the hamlet Mirkovići, better known as “Yogurt trail”, named after the first president of the Club.

It is a residential container with an attic that can accommodate 10 people and is constantly open. It has a wood stove, table, benches and lighting, and a connector for charging mobile phones. A small tank was built next to the shelter and has been in use since November 2021. From the shelter and its surroundings, there are beautiful views of the Dinaric plateaus Duler, Samar, Brezovac, and there is an especially beautiful view of Podinarje and the town of Knin and the peaks Promina, Kijevski bat, Svilaja, and the more distant Velebit peaks Sveto brdo and Crnopac.

The shelter was built by hard volunteer work of members of St. Michael Club, with the selfless help of the company Proautomatika from Šibenik, with the assistance of HGSS Šibenik Station, HGSS Split Station, PU Dinaridi and the helicopter action of the Transport Helicopter Squadron 93rd HRZ-PZO “Tovari” Divulje.

The president of the Club regularly invites members to labor activities at the shelter vicinity, and in the fall of 2021, the lining of the container with wood began, in order to further protect it from cold and wind.

On the trail of St. Michael

The trails managed by St. Michael are the already mentioned “Yogurt trail” from Mirkovići to the shelter Zlatko Prgin and the newly renovated trail from Ošljak to the shelter. This restored old and marked trail will be on a new map currently being made by HGSS cartographers.

St. Michael Club traditionally participates in the Oluja path, on which they have often been the most numerous mountaineers for many years. St. Michael also traditionally organizes a winter ascent on the Dinara from Mirkovići, on Saint Stephen’s Day (December 26).

Speleology – dozens of explored pits and caves

The speleological department of St. Michael operates in the area bounded by the roads connecting Strmica, Knin and Vrlika and the western edge of the Cetina field. On parts of Dinara within Šibenik-Knin county, speleologists from HKP Mihovil have explored in 55 speleo-objects, mostly at the upper parts of Dinara.

The most successful research of the Dinara area conducted by speleologists of St. Michael Club were those in the cave system of the Gospodske špilje – Vrela Cetine (total length 4982m), Kotluša Cave (length 4507m) and Rudelić Cave (length 1382m), all large flowing objects. The research of these objects on the west side of Cetina filed was started by speleologists from PD Željezničar from Zagreb, numerous national and speleologists from abroad got involved, including St. Michael’s speleologists. They have also found and explored the 749m long Duliba cave in the Krčić canyon, which is completely submerged for most of the year, and through which a significant air flow was recorded, which indicates the prospect of further research. Very close to it is the cave Mala duliba, 115 m long.

Of the longer horizontal speleological objects, the 186m long cave in Šobotovo Točilo stands out, as well as 105m long caves on the hiking trail between Glavaš and Martinove košare, the 127m long system in Čekrkske rupe and the 156m long Štemerica cave, north of the highest peak of the Dinara, also the deepest pit of the upper part of Dinara with a depth of 106m. St. Michael also topographically photographed the cave under Topoljački buk, 234 m long, one opening of which serves as the entrance to the hydroelectric power plant, and in which they found several dry and underwater entrances, and which was formed entirely in tufa.

The largest number of speleological objects are vertical objects – pits, entry into which is possible only with knowledge of the use of ropes and the use of special speleological equipment. Speleological activity of St. Michael’s speleologists on the Dinara is focused on the area of Šibenik-Knin County, but they have also explored a little further east – in Vodena peć (length 713m) and Golubinci near Ruminski vrtli (176m, -91m).

In addition to data on speleological objects in which they researched themselves, the speleological department of St. Michael also collects data of all the research of all speleologists in the Šibenik-Knin County, so their archive contains data on about thirty other objects from the vicinity of Kijev and Glavaš.

St. Michael’s speleologists will continue to explore the top of the Dinara – from the top ridge to the border with BiH, where there are a dozen unexplored pits drawn on maps.

St. Michael initiated HGSS Šibenik

The initiators of the establishment of the Croatian Mountain Rescue Service of the Šibenik (HGSS Šibenik) are mountaineers from the St. Michael Club and about 20 St. Michael members are also members of HGSS. The first trained mountain guides with passed professional exam founded the Šibenik Mountain Guides Station.

The results of work, endeavors and achievements of St. Michael Mountaineering Club:

– 2005. The plaque of the City of Šibenik for the development of mountaineering and speleology

– 2008. The plaque of Šibenik-Knin County for the development of mountaineering and speleology

– 2007. Recognition of the Executive Board of the Croatian Mountaineering Association for the best website of HPS members

– 2013. The plaque of the City of Šibenik for the development of mountaineering, speleology and mountaineering

– 2013. Bronze badge of the Croatian Mountaineering Association for the contribution to the development of mountaineering

– 2016. The coat of arms of Šibenik-Knin County for promoting the values of healthy living among young people, protection of cultural and natural values of the City of Šibenik and Šibenik-Knin County, and for numerous sports activities

– 2017. Recognition of the Executive Board of the Croatian Mountaineering Association for the most successful mountaineering association in Croatia among 345 registered mountaineering associations at the Croatian Mountaineering Association

– 2019. Recognition of the Executive Board of the Croatian Mountaineering Association for the best work with young people

– 2019. Construction of the Zlatko Prgin mountain shelter on the Dinara

– 2020. Recognition of the Executive Board of the Croatian Mountaineering Association for the greatest contribution to mountaineering journalism for the Helop magazine.

St. Michael club also edits and publishes a specialized yearly magazine Helop – ISSN 1848-3224, which is being given for free. Check it out on the link below – http://www.sv-mihovil.hr/stranice/helop/9.html.

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Beekeepers roundtable: The biggest challenge – climate change

The first round table within the Dinara back to LIFE project was held in Sinj, organized by the Cetina Krajina LAG, and the topic was beekeeping and the challenges facing the local beekeeper. The meeting was attended by representatives of beekeepers, local governments, public institutions for nature management, LAG, and the Biom Association.

In the Cetina region, about 250 beekeepers own about 12,000 hives, and in the last two years the coronavirus has made it difficult to place honey on the market, while increasingly frequent extreme weather conditions have affected the seasonal delay of vegetation. The main topic of the round table was encouraging planting of honey plants in green public and private areas with the aim of improving bee grazing.

As the main current problem, beekeepers unanimously pointed out climate change and several years of drought which makes beekeeping much more difficult in general, and especially stationary beekeeping. It is for this reason that the planting of honey plants and trees that better tolerate drought and bloom in spring or autumn has been proposed, and it is to be expected that indigenous species are more resistant and adapted to local climatic conditions. For beekeepers affected by drought, the renovation project of wells and ponds was presented as indirect support.

Tomislav Sotinac, an expert associate for nature protection at the Dinara back to LIFE project, has presented the idea of action cleaning of overgrown and polluted areas owned by local government units, provided that honey plants are then planted on those areas.

Ivan Budinski, expert project advisor for nature protection, suggested planting honey trees along embankments and canals leading from the settlements to the fields. In this way the number of trees in the area would increase due to elongation. This activity would require the approval of Hrvatske vode public company.

The participants of the round table also mentioned the problem of medicines for varroa, which are subsidized to beekeepers by the state, although they are not effective, while those medicines that are effective are still not available or approved in Croatia. Beekeepers have cited the potential for breaking through, clearing and widening forest fire roads that can be of great benefit to them when accessing certain locations.

The main activity of the Dinara back to LIFE project is the restoration of Dinaric grasslands due to their importance for nature and overall biodiversity, and the restoration of grasslands will benefit all residents of the Dinara area, including beekeepers. The organization of round tables is an introduction to further activities of holding rural development workshops, all in order to further encourage the development of primary activities in the wider project area.

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New project area map – explore!

We have released a new interactive map of the area covered by the Dinara back to LIFE project on our website. A clear and easily searchable thematic map contains marked areas and locations of activities carried out so far, as well as some additional information from this area.

The map contains short descriptions and locations of restored wells, areas of restoration and controlled burning, location of educational-volunteer camp, areas of biodiversity research, areas where target bird species and grasslands can be found, as well as plant species, bee and locust research areas. A whole separate group of information are the locations of orchids.

The map also contains some external information such as hiking trails, roads and mountain shelters. Some of the marked areas and locations also contain links to our publications with additional information.

Find the map on the link below – https://dinarabacktolife.eu/en/project-area/

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The Dinara back to LIFE project received the Yellow Frame Award for Sustainable Agriculture!

The Dinara back to LIFE project received the prestigious Yellow Frame award in the category “Eradicating hunger and promoting sustainable agriculture”, at last week’s award ceremony held in Zagreb. The Yellow Frame Awards were divided into 17 categories according to the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, and the award ceremony itself was held under the slogan “Sustainable Croatia – Live and act in harmony with nature today”. The Yellow Frame Award for Sustainable Development, Science and Education is awarded by Adria Media Zagreb and National Geographic Croatia.

“We gain with your work, your genius, we want you to continue to inspire us with your work” – the editor in chief of National Geographic Croatia, Hrvoje Prćić 17 said in his introductory speech, thanking and congratulating all the nominees and winners. In 17 categories with three nominees in each, the nominated were individuals and organizations that fight for a better world in various ways – protection and research of the sea, waste management, organic farming, renewable energy, protection of endangered birds, helping the people in need and many others who want a more sustainable tomorrow. At the awards ceremony, editor Prćić also emphasized that he considers the nominees and winners of the Yellow Frame Awards to be real “influencers” in today’s society.

Tomislav Hudina, project manager

One of the main activities of the project is certainly aimed at nature conservation through sustainable use, which in practice means that our goal is to encourage the development of extensive cattle-breeding, beekeeping and other activities that contribute to maintaining Dinaric grasslands and improving habitat conditions for many wild species dependent on large open habitats. Through the project, in addition to restoring grassland by removing unwanted woody vegetation, we also restore ponds, wells, dry stone walls and roads, organize round tables and trainings, develop business plans for farmers, improve the tourist infrstructure. We are also trying to improve grasslands management practices through cooperation with relevant institutions and development of guidelines for dry grassland management. We hope that the results of the project will be more cattle-breeders and more livestock in larger areas under grasslands, more pairs of target birds, more successful family farms, a wider tourist offer – a revived Dinara!

The winners and the nominees

The deserving for the Yellow Frame award are all members of the project partnership – Croatian Forestry, LAG Cetinska Krajina, Faculty of Agriculture University of Zagreb and the Biom Association as the leading partner – but also project associates from various sectors. We thank the representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of economy and sustainable development from the project Advisory Council who direct the project, as well as members of the Cooperation Council – hunters, mountaineers, tourism workers, beekeepers, local government, partner associations and individuals who expand the project with their proposals and ideas. We thank all the volunteers who participated in the Dinara camp and in the activities carried out so far through the project and all the others who helped and are still doing so to help carry out the project as intended and to achieve its fundamental goal – preserving nature through sustainable use.

We would also like to thank Adria Media Zagreb and National Geographic Croatia for this award for recognizing and rewarding our will and motivation and desire for sustainability on the Dinara. The Yellow Frame Award obliges us to continue the project at least at this pace, and hopefully stronger!

In conversation with Robert Kakarigi, the member of the Yellow Frame awards jury

It is interesting to note that the Biom Association received the Yellow Frame Award in 2019 in the Life on Land category, so this new recognition is even more dear to us, because winning the award once may be a coincidence, but twice is a pattern, so it is an additional confirmation, recognition and an incentive for us to be even better.