Erasing Borders With the Great Outdoors

The Czech Republic and Poland utilize the beauty of their border region to spur growth and tourism in the area

The largely underdeveloped region between the Czech Republic and Poland hosts natural beauty that has long been underutilized. However, through help from the EU, work is being done to transform this area into a hub for outdoor recreation.

Cultural differences are irrelevant when Czech and Polish people can enjoy many of the same hobbies and the outdoor environment they share in the same way.

These two countries are now trying to use their border region as a means for economic growth while also improving the lives of its inhabitants. In building up recreation infrastructure, coupled with some cultural projects, the regions of Moravian Silesian in the Czech Republic, and Silesian in Poland are hoping to attract more tourism to the area.

Regional development funds from the European Union have provided the means to start a host of projects, while being a part of the EU has broken down the barriers that once made it difficult to cooperate on these cross-border projects.

The European Union has provided the regions, Moravian-Silesian in the Czech Republic and Silesia in Poland with the financial means to start a host of the necessary projects. In addition, the ability for visitors to move across national borders with ease now allows the border region to develop in a new way.

With cycling growing in popularity in both countries, the most extensive of these projects is the creation of a

map of the bike path (click to enlarge)

network of cycle paths. These routes will wind through both countries, stretching 53km in total.

“I think that cycling is very popular in this region and now its possible to cross the border,” said Ceslav Valosek, the project manager from the Regional and Engineering office of Karvina.

The Project Begins

After months of work by organizations from both sides of the border, the legislative and logistical side of the project has finally finished. On March 30th, work has been handed over to the construction companies that are now taking the first steps in creating this huge expanse of paths.

The project will link many already existing bike paths in Poland and the Czech Republic that used to stop just shy of the border. These routes will connect the areas of Raciborz and Krzyżanowice in Poland before crossing the border near Bohumin and continuing to Karvina and Chotebuz. After that, the route will once again head back towards Poland where it meets with other bike paths near the border area near Cesky Tesin. Much of the path follows the Rivers Olza and Oder, which have long been part of the natural border between the two countries.

See the full map of the bike path here

“The signs on the path will make it much easier for people to find their way and cycle, so I think it will be very helpful for tourists and other cyclers,” said Valosek.

The ability to cross the borders of Poland and the Czech Republic without any problems has made it possible to connect cycling paths in the area, allowing cyclists and tourists alike to enjoy the region unhindered by the boundaries of these countries borders.

This new path will also draw some of its popularity and visitors form the more well known greenways project. This project works to change old trade routes, railways and river areas into multi-use paths. Since one of their recent efforts has linked the cities of Krakow with Ostra and Brno before ending in Vienna, these two sets of paths can easily be used together by visitors.

Help From the EU

Being a part of the European Union has been a large reason for finally making these projects feasible. With 90% of the cost of these projects covered by the European Union, more than merely the ability to cross borders without restrictions due to the Schengen Area has helped these projects get started. The partner cities can therefore accomplish many projects that would have otherwise been impossible.

“A Project like this is very expensive for each of the partners, as well as for both partners together. We can’t do it without grants from the EU  – it is a generous subsidy and we are grateful. Our towns are then able to finance the rest of the project’s budget,” said Věra Vzatková, the project manager for the city of Bohumin.

One of the primary ways this has been accomplished is by the ease at which money is transferred from one country and government or organization to another. What used to be an arduous process can now be done with nearly the same ease as transferring money inside the same country due to less restrictions and the standardization of banking rules.

“I think its much more easier now, funding is without any difficulties,” said Valosek, “there are a lot of agreements so there are no difficulties with the transfers between banks so its much easier that we are members of the EU.”

Ceslav Valosek, cycle path project manager

Building Closer Relationships

The European Union has brought these towns closer together and made these projects possible and easier for the different cities, regional governments and organizations participating.

As a result, local governments in the Czech Republic now have a stronger relationship with their Polish counterparts. Despite being merely a few kilometers a part in some instances, there was very little communication between local leaders in this area that weren’t representing governments in the same country. Neighboring districts can now cooperate more and aren’t held back merely because of the fact that there is a national border separating them.

“Relationships between Bohumin and Krzyzanowice governments is very solid and we can say friendly,” said Vzatková.

Problem Still Unsolved

However, working with the EU hasn’t streamlined the process entirely. The application, and the process of receiving building permits in border regions is hardly easier than it was before Poland and the Czech Republic were a part of the European Union.

Due to different building codes and separate organizations granting building permits, both countries must still file paperwork independently as they have to abide by different regulations. Therefore the applications are different and must be done in both countries to be submitted to the organization in charge of the region.

“Compared to the project 10 years ago, as I was involved in a project in 2000 when we made a cycling path but, there is no difference after the last 10 years. The building law is different on both sides of the border,” said Valosek, “Its not influenced by being an EU member. The building law is different and we work separately.”

Despite making strides in many other levels of cooperation, implementing projects in these borders regions and investing the regional development funds and subsidies provided by the EU has been slowed by a lack of unification in the realm of building permits and applications.

The main cities along the cycle path as well as where the River Oder and River Ozli run near the path

View Points of Interest for the Bicycle path in a larger map

Larger Plan For the Region

The larger scheme of the efforts in this border region include a host of other projects, with the general goals of making it a nicer place to live for inhabitants of the region and new sites and attractions to draw tourists to the area.

The general goals for the development of more outdoor infrastructure, according to Vera Vzatkova the Secretary of the city of Bohumin, include:

One of the five new kayak/canoeing entrance points along the river

  • Tourism development
  • Increase the attractiveness of our industrial area
  • Expand menu of leisure and sports activities, show to common people how they can pleasantly spend time although they are not active, professional athlete.
  • Increase knowledge of local residents and tourists about interesting places on the CZ-PL border

There are a number of projects in the region directed towards these goals through a variety of different means. These include work

for nature conservation, the building of tourism centers in the area, making the Oder River area a better and more accessible place for kayaking as well as reinvigorating the Polish and Czech art of glass blowing for a tourist attraction. To find more information on the projects in the area follow the links bellow.


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