We work to preserve the natural and cultural heritage of Prespa, protecting its rich biodiversity and landscape, side by side with the people who live here.

Guided by scientific knowledge and many years of experience in protecting the area, we strive to limit the effects of climate change and modern lifestyles on the natural environment of Prespa and promote sustainable ways to create a favourable future for generations to come.

We work across borders and see the region as a single place with natural and cultural wealth of unique value. Because of its global significance people from all over the world are interested in preserving the unique heritage of Prespa, we join forces with them and the local community in our efforts, as well as with many academic, institutional, scientific and NGO partners.

Wise use

Since 1997, municipalities in Greece with a population of less than 2,000 people, of which Prespa is one, have been obliged to draw up detailed local spatial plans, aiming to balance the distribution of human activities and create sustainable conditions for development.

In 2006, the SPP undertook to prepare one of these plans, on behalf of the Municipality of Prespa. The study went through many years of local consultation (2008-2014), especially the planners’ proposals for how the Municipality of Prespa should be zoned. At that time, the boundaries of the municipality had changed as well as the relevant legislation and this had the result that the final phase, where the proposals should take the form of a legal text for approval, has not yet been implemented.

At a transboundary level, after the Transboundary Prespa Park was declared in 2000 on the initiative of the SPP. A trilateral Strategic Action Plan (SAP) was then prepared, to formulate strategic objectives and wise planning measures, aiming to preserve the park’s valuable ecological and cultural values ​​and promote co-operation for sustainable development. The result of expert groups working together and extensive public consultation, with the SPP as the main implementing organisation, the SAP was adopted in 2004 and has been the basis for planning all Prespa Park activities. With the full operation of the Prespa Park Management Committee since 2022, it is planned to re-visit and update the SAP.

At the same time, the SPP has helped young farmers to start growing organic beans, putting them in touch with organic certification bodies and organising a distribution network with organic shops and traders. The SPP also initiated efforts for an agricultural “Prespa Park Products” label in the 2000s, with the co-operation of a significant number of producers in the area.

In 2015, the SPP also supported a study on strategic planning for funding opportunities through the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), providing a complete overview of the financial measures to be found in the then forthcoming new CAP. The study looked at ways of implementing the measures together with the potential benefits, their importance and how they were connected to Prespa, preparing the ground for developing agricultural initiatives using environmentally friendly methods.

Subsequently, the SPP’s multilateral PoliPrespa project, in collaboration with the American Farm School (AFS) in Thessaloniki, also sought to promote organic farming, creating a producers’ group and supporting marketing efforts. A LoRa system provide real-time field data to conventional farmers has also been installed, ultimately aiming to reduce water and agrochemical use. Similarly, PoliPrespa worked to support diversification in agriculture through local medicinal and aromatic plants, and has helped beekeepers with a study on the special characteristics of Prespa apian products.

The centre operated for 20 years and welcomed over 132,000 visitors, only closing its doors in 2012, when the national park authorities opened three new information centres. Meanwhile, the SPP has continued to provide guided tours on Prespa and the SPP’s work to thousands of visitors, raising awareness of the area and its exceptional nature and fascinating culture.

During the late 2010s, the SPP redoubled its efforts to stimulate ecotourism by creating infrastructure for visitors and strengthening the knowledge and skills of local tourism entrepreneurs. Hiking trails and cycling routes were marked and maintained; a mobile phone app, video and brochures were all developed to promote tourism in the area; and a legacy publication on the comprehensive “Flora and Vegetation of the Prespa National Park, Greece” was produced, bringing together all the research and knowledge gathered on Prespa’s diverse and outstanding flora over several decades.

Recently the SPP has also supported tourism based on cultural and environmental values in the cross-border area of ​​Prespa. Working with partners in Greece and North Macedonia, environmental and cultural tourist information for transboundary ​​Prespa has been made available for new technologies and information panels on lesser-known aspects of Prespa have been installed in Greece, while an environmental education pack has been developed for the Agios Germanos traditional watermill and its access improved with wheelchair ramps and a braille information point.

Lack of knowledge about traditional building methods and prohibitive restoration costs mean that the maintenance or restoration of these buildings is no easy task and many in the area prefer to build new houses rather than renovate old ones.

For the SPP, Prespa’s traditional villages and buildings are one of its most important cultural elements. To meet the gap in guidelines for how to correctly renovate traditional buildings, the SPP published two books in the 1990s on the appropriate methods for their restoration, containing details on the different architectural types, instructions for their renovation or repair, and detailed plans of special features, such as windows, doors and balconies.

In 1994, the SPP put its interest into practice when it bought and renovated a traditional stone building in Agios Germanos, which hosted its first offices, and began reconstructing a second traditional building in Laimos in 2003. Since 2010, the SPP’s offices have been based in the Laimos building, while the Agios Germanos building is used for accommodation and to store the SPP archive.

In 2013, a project began to restore the watermill and make its milling machinery fully operational, creating a space where visitors could learn about the mill’s history and use, as well as more about traditional watermills in Greece. The watermill complex opened to the public two years later and its exemplary restoration won the prestigious Europa Nostra Award in 2016. In the early 2020s the SPP also improved access to the watermill for wheelchair users and the visually impaired, and designed a freely available environmental education pack for visiting children.

Prespa is also home to many important Byzantine monuments, including an early Christian church, close to the shore of the small lake and most likely dedicated to Agia Anna, which was only discovered in 2012 when a large fire burned the reeds that covered the remains of the church. Through its PoliPrespa project the SPP actively supported the urgent work of the 16th Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities to preserve the church, helping to cover the costs of cleaning and roughly restoring the monument after centuries under the mud and lake water, and covering it to prevent any further deterioration.