« In the footsteps of Felix Vogeli »
The EcoTrail is a local initiative from volunteers and inhabitants of the town. Designed as an educational trail, the aim behind this initiative is to keep alive the awareness about the role of the forest, in terms of preservation of the biodiversity and natural resources, but also in the fight against soil erosion and floods. It’s indeed here, in the Kazanlak valley, following numerous tragic floods , that was born national policies of afforestation, mobilizing all a country throughout the last century. While enjoying a nice walk through the forest (around 2h), the Eco’Trail is an opportunity for visitors to learn about this story, little known but nonetheless extraordinary.
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Why an EcoTrail in the name of Félix Vogeli ?
At the end of the XIXth and the beginning of the XXth century, the southern slopes of the Balkan Mountains were completely bared. Shipka and settlements of the Kazanluk Valley were hit by many colossal natural disasters. The soil erosion, mainly due to human activities, led to severe floods and torrents taking with them rocks, animals and houses. The arable lands and villages at the mountain’s foot were devastated. In 1904, the Bulgarian state responded to the alert of inhabitants of the valley and asked to the French government for help in order to fight against floods and erosion. The French forester, Felix Vogeli, was dispatched in Kazanlаk in April 1905. There, he led the creation of the first «Torrent Stabilization and Forestation Office » in Bulgaria. The arrival of Felix Vogeli to Kazanluk marked the beginning of reforestation works in national scale, which led to an extraordinary mobilization of the inhabitants of the valleys.
Initiated by the citizens of Shipka, the purpose behind the Eco’Trail is to preserve the memory of the tremendous intelligence and energy, invested by the men and women, who fought to restore the harmony between their habitat and the nature.
The erosion and floods at the end of the XIXth century and the beginning of the XXth.
The massive deforestation phenomenon in Bulgaria begun under the Ottoman Empire. It resulted as a consequence of the human activities over the years, such as the numerous Russia-Turkey battles from the XIVth to the XIXth century as well as the overgrazing and logging activities. The long process of destruction of the forest ecosystems led to the soil erosion causing catastrophic natural events.
In 1861, in the north part of the Kazanluk Valley, several streams started to overflow, causing the first severe damages on the settlements of the valley. In 1864, the great catchment of Enina River gathered huge quantities of water, carrying various materials which flooded Kazanluk, affecting livestock, streets and houses. Successive devastating floods caused by torrential rivers continued during each heavy rain in the Kazanluk valley and in all the country throughout the XXth century. (However from 1896, the Bulgarians citizens have been warned of the impending danger of devastating floods by the magazine “Bulgarian Review”. In its article named “The valley of Kazanluk – a future desert”, the forest conditions on the south slopes of the Balkan range had been analyzed. These forecasts were verified) at the beginning of the XXth century, with 163 floods all over the country caused by swelling of the rivers from 1900 to 1910 – according to the information recorded by the forester Félix Vogéli.
(These numerous catastrophic events were at the origin of the awareness of the Bulgarian citizens and authorities of the issues of the management and preserving of the forest ecosystem.)
 Source – http://www.doiserbia.nb.rs/img/doi/0350-7599/2013/0350-75991303361K.pdf
Felix Vogeli’s work and the fight against the torrents over the XXth century. In april 1905, in response to the appeal for help of the Bulgarian government, Felix Vogeli was dispatched in Kazanluk by the French minister of water and forests. He had lived 6 years in Shipka and led to the creation of the «Torrent Stabilization and Forestation Office » of Kazanlak, the first of the country.
With a very good theoretical background and rich practical experience of soil-erosions issues and torrential areas in the “Alpes mountain chain” in France, F.Vogeli began an ambitious work which led the beginning of the anti-erosion activities in a national scale in Bulgaria .
(His main concern was related to the extension and arrangement of the forest nurseries, the provision of sapling for afforestation, the study of the orographic, soil and vegetation-geographic conditions of the country as well as the causes of the deforestation and the determination of the places for the future fortification facilities.) He visited and studied different torrential
regions over the country in order to make recommendations for the places of new Torrent Stabilization Offices. Felix Vogeli made a general assessment of Bulgarian forests condition in 1911. According to that assessment, 90% of the wooded areas were covered with low-stem or trimmed woods with minimized water protection capacity. In order to regenerate the forest and rebuild a protective ecosystem, Félix Vogéli recommended the construction of check dams and leveled terraces allowing the catchment of the water thus fostering the growth of a new vegetation. He selected for that tree species, in particular pine trees from Canada, capable to adapt themselves to the climate of the region and to regenerate the eroded soils. Nowadays, the success of his method can be noted observing the high level of biodiversity of the Bulgarian forests. Walking along the trail, it can be noted that the pine trees planted around one century ago are slowly dying, allowing the natural process of growth of the native vegetation.
People against torrents
The beginning of organized afforestation work in 1905 gave birth to an extraordinary mobilization of the inhabitants of the towns and villages throughout Bulgaria. Thus various parts of the society of the time took their part: teachers, pupils, students as well as soldier and employees from enterprises, institutes and ministries have been involved in the afforestation activities. The population of the country has participated in 53 million of workdays during the afforestation implemented for the period from 1952 to 1990. Following this pioneer work, over time 38 sections have been created like the one in Kazanlak and 1.8 million Ha of new forest have been planted over the country throughout the XXth century, of which 780 000 have mainly an anti-erosion function.
(Nowadays, current logging practices in Bulgaria involve clearing large areas for roads, which contribute to erosion and wind funnels. The Shipka Initiative Committee for the preservation of the forest, has submitted a proposal for announcing a protected territory (see map). The proposal has a green light from the Ministry of Environment and Waters and at the moment is undergoing a process of approval from all stakeholders.)
Forest for people – Album, published on the occasion of the international year of the forest in 2011.
The odissey of the First, Petar Mandjukov
Forest Magazine – magazine for ecology and forestry – http://www.gorabg-magazine.info/old/eroz_07_05.html