Attractive projects are being developed with the support of European funds, which will contribute to the town’s development as a tourist destination. The Municipality has also started a project in favour of the people from the villages, which will be able to consult with their physicians without travelling to the town.
Mr. Nikolov, you have recently signed an agreement for European funding for a new sports complex in the town of Belogradchik. What will the complex include?
Yes, on November 27th we and the Agricultural Fund signed an Agreement for construction of a sports complex in Belogradchik. The grant approved by the Fund amounts to BGN 4.34 million and this amount will be used for financing the renovation of four sites of the sports complex. The former volley ball playground will undergo a major reconstruction; an air-supported dome will be constructed, which would allow the playground to be used during all seasons. The terrain will be expanded, locker rooms will be constructed, and new lighting will be installed. The playground arena and the sectors will be expanded to allow all types of ball sports to be played. The final completion of the sports hall is among the tasks contemplated under the project. It will be a multi functional hall and will meet all European requirements. The stadium will also undergo a major overhaul the approximate cost of which will be BGN 330,000 – all floorings will be replaced with the most modern Dutch designed floorings available, new sectors and locker rooms will be constructed. New training course will be constructed next to the stadium to preserve the grassed areas of the stadium from constant usage.
The citizens of Belogradchik have dreamed for this sports complex for a long time. Its construction started almost 25 years ago. As you know, our city has a remarkable sporting biography and excellent achievements in many sports – volleyball, soccer, wrestling, our children, both boys and girls performed very well at the state championships in sambo and judo. Let’s hope that the new complex will train another generation of talented athletes and why not future world champions.
How long will the project take and when will be the sports complex finally completed?
On Monday we will submit our request for the advance payments under the project. Then the coordination for the announcement of the public procurements for the construction will begin. If everything goes as planned the construction of the facility will start next spring. At the end of the next year or at the beginning of 2014 at the latest, the sports complex should be open and operating.
Will the new facilities provide possibilities for training camps?
Yes, our intentions are aimed at this direction. We can not rely solely on the municipal budgets to compensate the overall maintenance and utility costs of the sports complex. That is why we hope to start organizing training camps. There is a huge interest in these camps and we also have the hotel accommodation capacity required. Ever since 20 years ago studies have been made to establish whether the altitude, the air quality and the climate are suitable for athletes’ training camps. The findings of theses studies show that the conditions in Belogradchik are excellent for training and for all kinds of sports.
What does the other new project for which you signed an agreement include?
Also on November 27 we signed an agreement for a new and to a great extent unique project for the country. It will allow online health diagnosis and communication between the physicians and the residents of the villages which are more difficult to access. The Mayor’s Offices will ensure conditions for easy communication and visual connection so that the elderly people can consult a doctor while not leaving their villages, whenever it is not a case of emergency. Some of the villages are more difficult to be accessed, and such a trip incurs costs, so it will facilitate the people to a great extent. The equipment contemplated will be easy to use, the deputy mayors and the local GPs will assist. Doctors and patients will be able to exchange information over the Internet and talk, and it will also facilitate the fast response and transportation to the town if necessary.
We also contemplate online connections to be made with the Chairman of the Municipal Council, the Mayor, and various departments of the local administration. Under this project we have combined many different ideas; it is an entirely new concept and will evolve on an ongoing basis. The main objective is to facilitate the contact of the village residents with the physicians primarily. Each resident of our community will be able to go to the Municipal Office of the relevant village whenever he/she desires and make contact with anyone from the town. I am convinced that this project will be successful and we will use it very effectively in the best interest of the people from our municipality.
What other projects are already being implemented under EU programs in the municipality of Belogradchik?
Currently we are conducting procedures for selection of a contractor for the visitors’ centre “The Fortress”. This is a great modern acquisition for our town. The centre will facilitate the tourists and will also have all necessary prerequisites for running a business. The three main streets leading to the fortress will be overhauled. The renovation and restoration of the fortress walls is also contemplated as well as a tourist train for the visitors riding from the fortress to downtown and back. This project will be implemented with European funding entirely, and I expect that the procedures for selection of a contractor will be completed by the end of December and then we will begin with the construction works.
This week we also started the reconstruction of the famous “Walk of Health” in Belogradchik. Is about a kilometre long and reaches as far as the Natural Science Museum. The walk will be effectively illuminated and equipped with benches and three observation platforms overlooking the spectacular rock formations will be located along its way.
The full renovation of both our schools is undergoing completion. We have finished the first stage consisting of asphalt paving, new sidewalks and road paving of the whole residential complex called “The Milevite”. The first layer of asphalt mixture is laid and at present we are building the sidewalks and curbs and in the spring we will finish with the last paving layer. This will make this residential complex one of the best in the North-western Bulgaria – it is a distinct neighbourhood of our town consisting of new houses and the streets renovation will have a great aesthetic effect.
But many tourists wonder when will there be better roads which will lead to Belogradchik from Sofia for example?
The ride to Belogradchik is now pleasant and comfortable. The last road section has already been open. If you are driving through the Petrohan pass and the town of Berkovitsa, the road is excellent; the road lanes are already in perfect condition. If you take the Hemus Highway and pass through Vratsa you will also travel well. In fact the tourist flow does not depend so much on the roads. The key figures here are the tour operators and their motivation to provide tourists is very important. This type of tourism related to natural and historical attractions, provides the possibility to visit one and the same tourist destination several times in a lifetime. If one has ever seen the wonders of Belogradchik, they are remembered for a long time. The point is to motivate the tourists to come back again for a second, third and fourth time. For example, people go to the sea and go skiing whenever an opportunity occurs and often return to one and the same places, simply because they are familiar with them.
We have phenomenal sights. The focus of our efforts and gradual but constant development is aimed at our desire to be able to make the stay of the tourists more efficient, so that when they arrive to see the fortress and the rocks to make them stay a few more days and be occupied with a tourist and entertainment program. This however requires serious investments and capital investments of which the municipality can hardly dream. But gradually this will become true; the businesses will also work in this direction and will assist the municipality in this process in the future.
Would you rely on projects under EU programs in the future to develop the town as a tourist destination?
Yes, there are many things to be done and we’re already thinking ahead for the next programming period. I am totally satisfied with what happened within this programming period; we have actually commenced the implementation of important and major projects for the benefit of both the citizens of the town and the tourists.
What are the prospects for tourism development in other settlements of the Belogradchik Municipality?
In three of the larger villages a revival of activities and investments can be seen. For example, in the village of Stakevtsi a private investor operates very well and has successfully developed several guest houses, while investing and expanding its business. Near the village of Rabisha the cave is located and hence the tourist flows pass through there. There is an idea to build pontoons in the lake for short breaks. The village of Borovitsa also has potential; the restoration of the Red Monastery is carried out there, which is also a unique local sight worth to be seen.
There is an interest in the region; several houses have already been purchased in some of the villages for the purpose investing in them. Other EU projects are also forthcoming, including for roads development. The whole municipality has the potential and resources for tourism development. I like to say very often that “the North-West-Declined Bulgaria” is actually the North-West-Preserved Bulgaria and I’m pleased to hear that more and more people are using this phrase. I am very optimistic and it appears that things are gradually reviving and getting better.