The Apano Meria region (meaning ‘upper place’ since it is located in the north of Syros island) stretches over the mountainous terrain, where tranquillity and serenity surround the scattered farmhouses with the heady scent of fennel, thyme and wild olives. In the context of the ongoing initiative made by the locals for establishing Apano Meria as an environmental and geological park, it was of the utmost importance to ensure that historical footpaths leading through this landscape were protected.
To protect the ancient footpaths, the CPF was happy to grant the ‘Apano Meria’ Social Cooperative Enterprise for the establishment, management and protection of the environmental park of Apano Meria (a Natura 2000 protected area). The grant also went towards a study of the private land surrounding the three main pathways (called Kampos-Lia, Kampos-Marmari-Megas Lakkos, and Kampos-Griza/Ipi). The aim was to investigate where public footpaths were being blocked, and to establish ways to encourage private owners to open their land for public path access.
What does the project deliver in practice?
The outcome of the project was a ‘map’ which was a foundational flagstone of the initiative to establish Apano Meria as a UNESCO Geopark. The study will remain at the disposal of all relevant authorities, to be used as a ‘tool’ to promote and facilitate any legal and sustained use of these paths, with positive results upon the proper future management of those, including the promotion of the experiential and alternative tourism in the island of Syros.
A Vision of the Environmental Park in Apano Meria that we are proud to share:
The Upper Part of Syros is a well-preserved example of Cycladic history, economy and culture, as well as landscape and architecture. It is dotted with archaeological sites that date back to the beginning of the Cycladic civilization (Kastri-Chalandriani, Delfinonisi – 3000 BC), such as the rare archaeological site of Grammata, associated with the nautical communication of the people of the Cyclades who nurtured Cycladic culture from its inception.
Geological formations which illustrate the geological history of the Aegean are scattered across this northern region of Syros, of which the rocky coastline is also characterised by its intense and rich marine life.
The local economy is based exclusively on small-scale agricultural and livestock production in a harsh terrain of steep slopes and dry stone walls. Agricultural production is mainly without water, due to a severe water shortage, typical of most Cyclades Islands.
Small and close-knit communities line the hills with predominantly single-storey buildings that posses threshing-floors, wells and many characteristic architectural constructions.
The wild natural beauty of this area, which consists of steep hillsides, the scent of thyme and sage, old paths, terraces, steep hillsides, and wild valleys with pristine beaches protected from the north winds is of utmost importance and in need of protection.
After decades of neglect and having so far escaped unregulated tourism development, Apano Meria is at an important crossroads. Will it be prey to the overexploitation of the tourist industry, as have most of the Cycladic islands, or will it be able to retain its character and its history, to preserve and highlight its special features by moving on from the period of abandonment and embarking on a new period of conservation and sustainable development?
This is our vision: with the designation of the area as an Environmental and Geological Park, to protect all natural, architectural, geological and marine features, to maintain and restore human-built structures that form the living history of the area and the Cyclades in general, and finally for the area to become a centre for sustainable activities, such as walking and geological tourism, climbing, diving, fishing, ecotourism and the promotion of archaeological sites.
This is the main sustainable development which could save the Upper Part both from abandonment and from overexploitation by tourism.
A bit about the organisation
The SCE Apano Meria was created in 2015 through an open assembly of Syros citizens, which recognized the need to prevent excessive touristic development through the encouragement of gentle activities, especially in the protected areas of the island (Natura 2000). It was officially founded in 2017 in order to promote, protect and preserve the northern part of the island (Apano Meria) and until today it supports the actions of the Municipality for the promotion of geotourism. From 2020 Apano Meria has worked to support the sustainable activities of the local population, such as primary production and the development of forms of tourism that respect the land and its inhabitants (e.g. hiking, environmental, geological, archaeological, rural tourism, climbing or diving, etc.).
Τo date, the SCE has managed to mobilise and inform dozens of citizens about the issues of the protected area and the geological importance of Syros through a multitude of events, workshops and meetings. In 2018, with the help of the CPF, the organisation conducted a study on the ownership of three paths at Apano Meria, which was donated to the Municipality of Syros – Ermoupolis – to be used in the implementation of the project for the creation of a Geological Exhibit and a geopaths application. At the same time, every year the SCE holds cultural events (concerts, exhibitions, etc.) and environmental protection activities (clean-ups, trainings, seminars) in Apano Meria and the rest of the island. Also, in 2020 our e-shop, where one can find products that promote Ano Meria, products of solidarity economy, such as those of VIOME, and many more, was launched.
‘The effort to exhibit the unique features of Apano Meria in the island of Syros has begun since many years ago. In the last two years, however, there has been a more coordinated effort characterised by a “from the roots” approach, which brought about, on one hand, the sensitisation of a large section of the local society and, on the other, the achievement of specific results; these culminated with the creation of the Social Cooperative Organization (SCO), suitably entitled “Environmental Park of Apano Meria in Syros”, and also the inclusion in the Development Program of Special Purpose of Southern Aegean of the project entitled “Activities the Exploit the Geology History for the Development of Geo-Tourism in Syros”, which has a budget of 367,000 €.
CPF, realising from the first moment the dynamics and prospects of this endeavour, came to our side, contributing in a specific and effective manner to the preparations for the implementation of the above project. With the funding that it made available to the SCO, it was possible to complete the study which determined the property status of the “geo-corridors” that are going to be created. That way, we are now able to approach the owners and to secure their consensus and participation in the implementation of this vision for the Apano Meria, under terms that respect the diverse inheritance of the area.’ – Andreas Gialoglou, Geologist, member of Apano Meria Social Enterprise