13 January 2014 17:52

Ayios Georgios Park in Athalassa is considered the best among Cypriot parks and is guarded by the Forestry Department like a precious jewel.
The green landscape featuring mature trees and a lake offers wonderful scenery that attracts large numbers of visitors on weekdays and many more during the weekend, including many families with children who spend their free time at the playground.
The park also offers facilities including a cafeteria where people can relax and enjoy a coffee, a walk along the pedestrian path and a bicycle lane for safe cycling.
Park manager Glafkos Kyriacou, a senior officer at the Forestry Department, described the park as an "oasis", which is part of the National Athalassa Park that lies within the municipal boundaries of Aglandjia, Stovolos, Latsia and Yeri.
Ayios Georgios Park is located in Aglandjia and is guarded as part of the national park 24 hours a day, by employees of the Forestry Department but also special police officers who have been assigned relevant duties.
Nevertheless, unwanted visitors continue to use the park and cause numerous problems, including poachers who bring hunting dogs or guns, while others fish illegally after nightfall.
According to Kyriacou, officers from his department have in the past located foreigners who not only went fishing in the lake but even threw nets and made noises in order to catch fish in their trap.
He admits that in the past the department faced a problem of  overpopulation by fish in the lake, but today, following the reduction of their numbers, fishing and other similar activities runs the risk of depleting the fish population in the lake.
The Forestry Department carried out a controlled reduction of the fish population in the lake during 2012, when a fishing team was organised with the help of local fishermen to gather a large number of fish and transfer them to other lakes and dams.
Kyriacou also explained that trespassers often engage in other activities that endanger the ecosystem such as walking on the river banks and collecting the crawfish, which are an endangered species.
Until recently, the park's visitors mainly included foreigners with their families who would organise picnics in the park.
Recently, however, the situation has changed, with large numbers of Cypriots gathering at the park to secure a free bench and table to enjoy their food, while those who arrive late have to make do with a blanket and eat their their meals on the ground.
Visitors can freely enjoy the sights and sounds of the park without interruption, as the chirping of birds and activities of the wildlife within the park are undisturbed by the noice of cars and other vehicles are prohibited from entering the area.
Another recent problem encountered at the park, due to its proximity to the residential area, is that it has become a dumping ground for unwanted cats and dogs. The dogs are handed over by the municipality to dog shelters, while the cat population has multiplied significantly and created a number of other problems.
"We are calling on the public not to bring any more cats to the park, as it is starting to create problems. A few cats are fine but too many affect the area's ecosystem and destroy it," Kyriacou points out.


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