Whoever wants to enter the paradise hall has to endure darkness and confinement. And must be prepared to crawl in the mud. Despite these difficulties, thousands of people make their way through the halls and crevices of the schonstein cave every year. But conservationists are resisting commercial exploitation. Heinz wurzer (DAV), for example. For decades, he and his wife maria have been exploring the geological underworld throughout europe. There could have been an ideal world of the hollow in french-speaking switzerland, says the 56-year-old, "if only marketing had finally been abandoned."
This opinion is also held by the bund naturschutz, the landesbund fur vogelschutz and the schoffel-umweltstiftung. Their chairman heinz marquart played a leading role in a petition to the bavarian state parliament in april. Since then, a rethink has begun: the district office has initiated a "different procedure" for dealing with the schonsteinhohle conservation area initiated. Heinz marquart is relieved. The district of forchheim has so far been "an emergency area" in terms of environmental law the fact that munchen immediately exerted pressure after the petition is proof for marquart "that the schonsteinhohle has been abused all these years".
Since 2004, the cave and its surroundings have been considered "particularly worthy of protection" according to european FFH guidelines. So why is the ban on commercial use, which has been in place since 2004, only now being implemented by the district office?? Reinhold goller, lawyer and head of the nature conservation authority, says: "this cave is a natural monument, and public use takes place anyway." Commercial use has never been "officially tolerated" been. Instead, the following rule applied: "if someone wanted to use the cave commercially, he had to report it." Where goller admits that many had not kept to this rule. "Thus, over many years, a creeping practice has developed that we have allowed to continue."
Reinhold goller believes that this "creeping practice" is a threat to the environment it made sense: "for nature, more is achieved if the cave is made accessible with professional guides and a contractual approach is used." The lawyer is convinced that the damage in the cave is not so much caused by the tourists but by the many "free users".
At night and in winter the cave is closed for the protection of the bats. What would otherwise have happened between 1. May and 30. September happens, remains uncontrolled. "The consequences are a tragedy", says manfred geyer. The district's soil conservationist has been in the halls, shafts and crevices hundreds of times. Shards from the neolithic period and masses of dripstones had once been found there. "Now the hollow is plundered". This is not surprising, says the 73-year-old, since there are well over 100 tour operators in germany who offer guided tours through the cave.
At least 8000 tourists a year had to be accommodated by the 400-meter tunnel system. "Off the record the marketing was tolerated, criticizes heinz wurzer. He and his wife maria like to take people into this dark world: "you can spend a whole day in this cave of floors", maria wurzer. "It would not only be a pity if the hollow were closed to everyone, it would be mean", says heinz wurzer. But the access by careless tourists pollute the cave with smoke, mull and fakalien. "The deterioration of the cave since 2004 is measurable."
Therefore, wurzer, geyer and marquart are disconcerted that the authorities continue to talk about an "economic use" thinks. This was suggested by a working group under the direction of the veldensteiner forst nature park, says reinhold goller. "Better to regulate than just ban, according to the lawyer's plea. Therefore, his proposal: hohlenfuhrer with special qualifications should accompany a maximum of two daily drives with 16 people each through the aisle. Manfred geyer thinks nothing of it. Only people close to tourism sat on the working group in question. People like him, who are critical, have not been invited for a long time.
DAV calls for a review
That's why honorary DAV chairman hansotto neubauer is urging for an "incontestably honest basis for a new beginning". An "FFH contractability appeal" was necessary. "The advocates of commercial use fear such an assessment because they fear its outcome", neubauer says.
Reinhold goller counters: "a monitoring a few years ago confirmed that guided groups are better than free access to hollow spaces." This has also been the "assessment," says confirmed by the experts at the round table. However, due to the vehement opposition of the environmental associations, it is not foreseeable at the moment whether the opening of the cave will take place."