SOOMA NATIONAL PARK best practice
SUPPORT LOCAL ECONOMY
Preserving Estonian dugout canoe heritage through tourism.
Soomaa National Park is vast wilderness area of untouched peat bogs, rivers, floodplain meadows and floodplain forests. „In Soomaa we have not only spring, summer, autumn and winter, but also a fifth season – the floods,” say the residents of Soomaa. Regular floods are the reason why traditional dugout boat (called “haabjas”) everyday use and building has survived here. The building skills and use of traditional dugout canoes (log-boats) have been preserved by organizing workshops, camps and river trips both for locals and tourists in Soomaa National Park.
Criteria 1: IMPACT ON THE COMMUNITY
A dugout is a boat which is basically a hollowed tree trunk. Other names for this type of boat are logboat and monoxylon. Haabjas is Estonian term for traditional dugout canoes, made os Aspen (Populus tremula) – haab in Estonian. In the flooded area of Soomaa national park these boats are survived as living culture. Dugout canoes are unique boats survived in the unique natural conditions of Soomaa National Park. Traditions are carried out to today by local boat builders, residents of the area.
Criteria 2 : INSPIRING AND EXEMPLARY
Visitors are welcome to come and educate themselves about the history and construction of these ancient vessels, participate in the practical building camps and make forays into the pristine nature of Soomaa National Park on these prehistoric vessels. Dugout canoes are harder to make than “normal” boats, that is the reason why less and less boats are built. By organizing dugout workshops lot of outside attention has been brought to the culture of Soomaa people, from visitors of the area as well as media. It has created a new interest for the boat building among local men and people are proud of the unique culture connected to dugout canoes and Fifth Season.
Criteria 3 : CONTRIBUTION TO SUSTAINABILITY
Dugouts are the oldest boats archaeologists have found. This type of boats, the use and building has survived as living culture in villages of Soomaa national park. The reason for survival of this ancient vechicle are natural seasonal floods, called Fifth Season by local people. By today Soomaa has developed into a center for building and maintaining the traditions of these ancient boats in Estonia. We continue a dugout canoe culture by organizing building workshops and river trips for both local residents and visitors of Soomaa National Park.