Nowadays, closing a vulnerable area can not be the best way to protect it. This idea has increased between managers and environmentalists – especially when the degradation agents (even unintentional) are the local communities. Opening the protected area for visitors and allowing the tourism activity to explore these areas of environmental protection will cause impacts like garbage, depredation, the habit to take “natural souvenirs” home, etc. However, if the visitation is well planned, developed and managed it can surely bring lots of benefits to the protected area.
Several areas in the Brazilian state of Paraná adopted this idea and are now using the income provided by the tourism activity to preserve the environment and also as an alternative for those who are considered illegal habitants on these areas.
A clear exemple is the Parque Estadual de Vila Velha or Vila Velha State Park. The park covers 40% of its operational costs revenue with the fee charged to visit the park (R$13 National visitors and R$25 for International visitors). In addition, the local demand leads the public power to invest more in infrastructure, as safe trails and bathrooms. “The tourist demand helps a lot in the financial and economical aspect and at the same time requires more investment. Equipments are required aiming to minimize the impact caused by visitors, especially a place filled of vulnerable elements as Vila Velha State Park”, emphasizes Maria Randall Dalcomune, coordinator of Vila Velha State Park.
Vila Velha State Park or Parque Estadual de Vila Velha is located about 90km (55 miles) from Curitiba. The park was created in 1953 and was listed as a State heritage in 1966. The park is famous because of its intriguing, curious and very interesting sandstone formations rise from fields which were at the bottom of an ocean 600 million years ago.
Volcanic eruptions, glaciation, and erosion by wind and rain have created over 20 gigantic shapes of a camel, a sphynx, a goblet and many others. The Goblet is a key element in an indigenous myth which explains the creation of Vila Velha. Seen from a distance or from the air, Vila Velha reminds a medieval town, standing majestic in the Paraná region of Campos Gerais.
At Vila Velha State Park you can also visit Furnas, craters which formed as sandstone collapsed and where water accumulates forming beautiful water mirrors. Of the two craters known as Hell’s Cauldrons, the most attractive to visitors is the deeper one, in which a panoramic elevator goes down to a deck above the water mirror.
Golden Pond or Lagoa Dourada is another tourist attraction in the park. A similar process to the creation of the craters gave origin to the Golden Pond or Lagoa Dourada, so called because the incidence of solar rays on it used to create a bright, golden effect, thanks to the presence of mica on the bottom.
The park is open all year, daily (except for Tuesdays) from 8:30 to 15:30h