wide view of a dutch landscape with clouds in the sky and water on the field

Open letter to all Dutch National Parks

Lees dit in het Nederlands

I think it can and must be organized completely different in the Dutch national parks. But how do you do something like that? I have no idea, but I thought I’d just send them a letter and I’ll see. On a free Wednesday afternoon, April 17, 2019, I wrote and sent the letter to 21 different recipients, naturally hoping for many responses.


Dear Nature lover,

Something is bothering me and I want to share that with you. I hope you have some time to read my message, because I know your time is valuable.

Let me first introduce myself briefly, Marlies Souverein, 35 years old and crazy about nature. I have studied garden and landscape architecture, but have taken a different course in recent years. I took the split in 2016 when I decided that I wanted to become a nature guide. That is why I left for America to work there as a volunteer interpretive park ranger for a year in two national parks.

There I found out that the NPS is very important and strong. It’s a very large government organization that attaches so much value to special landscapes (and much more) and they understand what they have to do to preserve this for all those future generations. I will not fully explain how this works, because I assume that you are aware of this.

What is bothering me then, you may ask. First, I wonder why so many different organizations are responsible for our national parks in the Netherlands. Just some names that I came across: SNP, Staatsbosbeheer, IVN, Natuurmonumenten and a whole series of foundations. In the US, a large proportion of the population is proud of its parks and many of them spend time visiting all of these parks. They travel all over the country to show that they appreciate these parks. On the other hand, the NPS is very clear what all their parks are, you can purchase a passport in which you can put stamps of each park that you have visited. As it is now organized in the Netherlands, each national park stands on its own (as I see it), where is the unity? Of course this is how the Netherlands is organized, and probably unintentionally grown that way, but why can’t the egos be set aside and all start to work together? Perhaps a little more popularity can be gained?

Secondly, I don’t understand why volunteers are put to work in such large numbers. The NPS also works with a large number of volunteers, but they do it differently. What I have experienced now in the parks in the Netherlands is that all guided tours and very many hosts of the visitor centers are almost all volunteers. In the US they have distributed these positions around 50/50. I think you understand why I say this. I would really like to work in the visitor center and do various guided programs. But I am not yet retired, so an income is still somewhat necessary. And I dare to turn this around too, you as a national park miss me and probably a whole lot of other very talented staff.

My passion does not lie in making maintenance plans, development plans and managing volunteers. My passion lies in transferring my passion for nature to the visitors of these parks. I enjoy studying on knowledge and background first and then transferring this through a self-written program to anyone who might be interested in it.

Well, this is not an application, so I will leave it at this. Of course I hope that you can give me an answer to these complex questions that I ask you. I want to thank you very much for reading my letter. If you have become curious about who I am, take a look at MovesByNature.com.

Greetings,

Marlies Souverein


Now on April 29, 2019, I have received eight responses, mainly that my message is being forwarded to another person in charge. A few times I also received a substantive response, one a little longer and the other a little shorter. I deliberately omitted all personal data, because I don’t think that is necessary for the point I want to make.


Hello Marlies,

A recognizable analysis. And indeed we work in the Dutch context …

Do you live near the Drentsche Aa National Park? I could then pass on your name to the IVN, which provides communication and education for us.

Sincerely,

Secretary Consultative body

Nationaal Park Drentsche Aa ‘Van brongebied tot benedenloop’



Dear Marlies,

Thank you for your message and your commitment. It is always nice to hear that people are proud of our own nature. The situation in America is incomparable with the Dutch situation. In America the parks are much larger and often not accessible for free. This means that the parks have their own income there (such as only De Hoge Veluwe National Park in the Netherlands). In principle, the Netherlands chooses to keep our (scarce) nature freely accessible to everyone. That is a great thing in itself. At the same time, that makes us vulnerable, because if nature is seen as a collective good, it is therefore almost entirely dependent on government funding. It matters which political wind blows. More right-wing parties aim for more market forces and less government influence. The effects of 3 Rutte cabinets are starting to be felt. Our national and provincial government are cautious when it comes to the National Parks. Another motion was passed in 2015 to strengthen the National Parks in the Netherlands. The subsequent program (with a limited budget) has now ended, but the responsibility for the National Parks is not guaranteed. That leads to fragmentation. This also worries us, a handful of paid employees. And although we are proud of and happy with the many volunteers, we would also prefer a more solid professional basis. Unfortunately, the means for this are lacking.

More information about the efforts to strengthen the National Parks can be found here https://www.nationaleparkenbureau.nl/default.aspx

I realize that this may not be the answer you would like to hear, but it is what what it is. By the way, if you want to participate as a hobby, also during the weekends and holidays there is a need for volunteers.

Sincerely

Area coordinator Zuidwest-Drenthe en  Regionaal Landschap Drents-Friese Grensstreek



Dear Marlies, Thank you for your nice and good questions. I will do my best to answer this as well as possible:

The possible causes of the many and diverse nature organizations has mainly grown historically, all with their own perspective, due to regional differences, but also partly linked to ownership and management.

There are more than one hundred thousand people in the Netherlands who volunteer for nature, in the city or in the countryside. People who are committed to their environment and are indispensable to nature in the Netherlands. Counting, repairing and telling volunteers. We welcome that! The volunteer organizations work on supporting the volunteers. That is desperately needed. In recent years, there has been increasing efforts to improve cooperation among themselves and with provinces and municipalities.

Do you want to read more about the motives and motives of volunteers at these nature organizations? See: https://www.rijksoverheid.nl/documenten/rapporten/2018/03/29/benchmark-groene-vrijwilligers



Hello Marlies,

Thanks for your message. It is indeed true that the organization in the Netherlands is organized differently from America. As a marketing agency, we are not about how and why. We will forward your message to … of IVN, they are the implementation organization for the National Park label. Of course you can also contact her yourself, address is … @ ivn.nl. I hope to have informed you sufficiently with this.

Gr Team Weerribben-Wieden


The day after sending I received a call from a gentleman who told me he thought it was faster to call, unfortunately I was working at the time and asked if he could call me back. He never did that and I even tried to call him right after the agreed time because we might have misunderstood each other. I think it is very unfortunate that I didn’t speak to him because I think he is an important person within the National Parks Foundation (SNP). I would have liked to hear what his answer was to my letter.

All in all, until now I think I have received few responses that I make me think I’m being taken serious. I would love to make a contribution to our national parks, but I am afraid that I can only do that in a few left over hours and once I retire.

Maybe it will change someday, but the attitude that you often see, and here again clearly emerges, makes me fear that it will never be like that. Why do most people just shrug their shoulders and then say; “It’s just like that”? I think a lot of people are not at all satisfied with how things are going in the world, but everyone seems to think that they cannot do anything about it. Then nothing will ever change, right?

Let us continue to dream of a better future together and then do everything we can to achieve it.

Edit May 3rd 2019

Shortly after posting this blog I received a call from someone from Natuurmonumenten. This gentleman apparently had received my letter in various ways. He summarized part of the letter in the sense that I find nature and especially the national parks in the Netherlands fragmented. I think he summarized that reasonably well. What he mainly wanted to tell me about this was that “they” (government and various nature organizations) are busy reviving national parks. To organize it more conceptually and in this way to attract more foreign visitors to our Dutch nature.

He gave me the example of a park that they want to call National Park Het Nieuwe Land (The New Land). The Oostvaardersplassen and the Marker Wadden will be a part of this. With this they want to show how we, as Dutch people, shape our country, and that we create new land. I think this is a positive development and I am curious how and when we will see something of this.

After arguing for this change, we also briefly discussed the amount of organizations that manage nature in the Netherlands and how they compete with each other for visitors. I understand that it has grown in this way, but I think that our government has a task to somehow eliminate this and make it all public land that is for visitors and not organizations.

Finally, I briefly mentioned in the conversation that there are very few paid jobs within the parks. The only thing he said about that is that there are really jobs that I am looking for and that I just have to keep looking and applying. I think that I want to do this again, but I am worried to get my hopes up and then to be disappointed.

One thought on “Open letter to all Dutch National Parks

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