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'Twinning' with Triglav

BLED, Slovenia — They're not identical, but Crater Lake National Park and Triglav National Park in Slovenia are officially "brothers" following "twinning" ceremonies at Triglav's main information center in the lakeside town of Bled.

While most formal agreements between national parks in the United States and other countries are known as "Sister Park" agreements — Crater Lake formalized such a compact with the Wuyishan National Scenic Area in China last year — Slovenian officials prefer the masculine moniker for the partnership they call "twinning."

During a recent formal signing ceremony, officials from Crater Lake and Triglav said the agreement marks the beginning of a true working partnership. John Duwe, Crater Lake's education coordinator, is spending two weeks at Triglav this month to discuss and exchange ideas about issues common to both parks.

Before the formal signing, a Crater Lake delegation that included two park officials and the presidents of three support organizations toured areas of Triglav, which range from pristine lakes to rugged mountains in the Julian Alps near Slovenia's border with Austria and Italy. Tentative plans are being made to have Triglav staff visit Crater Lake and Southern Oregon next year.

"Slovenians and Americans share a deep appreciation for their natural treasures," Brent Hartley, the U.S. ambassador to Slovenia, said during the signing ceremony. He noted both parks have iconic blue lakes, towering mountains and abundant forests.

Born and raised in Medford, Hartley recalled spending "memorable moments of my childhood at Crater Lake." Since becoming ambassador in February 2015, he has likewise familiarized himself with Triglav, from climbing the peak — the tallest in Slovenia — to extensively hiking trails in and outside the park.

During his remarks, Crater Lake Superintendent Craig Ackerman told about his personal connection to Slovenia. His father was stationed in Corsica, a Mediterranean Sea island near Italy, during World War II, overseeing former prisoners of war from Yugoslavia, including some from Slovenia, then part of Yugoslavia. While transporting a group to a work site, "The young men became animated, whistling and shouting at some pretty girls along the road." Ackerman said his father left the truck cab to quiet the crew. While doing so, the truck struck a large hole, throwing his father to the ground, where he was run over and injured with two broken legs. He was taken to a hospital in Italy where he met and eventually married an Italian nurse.

"So," Ackerman explained with a laugh, "were it not for some flirting and raucous Slovenians, I would not have been born."

Ackerman emphasized parallels between the two parks, which are similar in size and have concerns about such issues as damage to forests caused by bark beetles, protecting endangered native trout and challenges created because tourism peaks at high levels in July and August.

"Both organizations will work together and share our knowledge, skills and expertise to help protect, preserve and make available for our citizens and visitors places whose magnificent scenery, diverse resources and rich history transcend international borders," he said. "But it's less important that we share identical mountains, rivers or flora than we share a deep and abiding desire to protect the unique assets that represent the natural and cultural heritage of our two nations' peoples."

Bill Thorndike, president of the Crater Lake Trust, a group that raises money for major park projects, spoke on behalf of Jerry Jacobson, president of the Crater Lake Natural History Association, and Barry Girt, president of the Friends of Crater Lake. He explained the roles the three volunteer groups play in supporting Crater Lake.

"We feel as though we are part of the Crater Lake family," Thorndike said.

Speaking on behalf of Slovenia were former Triglav Director Dr. Marija Markes, Triglav interim director Dr. Bogomil Breznik, and Ana Kunstelj, Triglav infocenter director. Opening and closing the ceremonies, attended by about 100 people, was Do-Re-Mi, a private music school, with songs and dancing to the theme, "The Sounds of Nature."

Reach freelance writer Lee Juillerat at 337lee337@charter.net.

Visitors hike near Vrsic Pass on Mount Triglav. [Photo by Lee Juillerat]
A visitor stops to enjoy the beauty of a stream on Mount Triglav. [Photo by Lee Juillerat]