Total Croatia News is delighted to welcome Roderick Wilde, a long-term American resident of Knin, to the TCN team. A town which is rarely associated with positive economic news, but are things changing? Here is Roderick’s first piece on December 19, 2016.
Earlier this year it was announced that five war affected towns in Croatia were singled out for receiving funds from the European Regional Development Fund and the European Social Fund. The towns were Knin, Benkovac, Vukovar, Petrinja and Beli Manastir.
The Knin city government was well ahead of the curve and had a comprehensive plan already drawn up. They modified their plan to meet the requirements for a grant of 24 million Euros from this EU funding. Since Knin’s application was far in advance of the other applicants Knin was chosen as the first city to be awarded the grant. They will be the pilot program for the others to follow. Knin has earmarked four separate projects for use of this funding. The first part of the 24 million Euros should be arriving in early 2017 and the projects will begin.
I was fortunate to recently meet with Nikola Blažević, the mayor of Knin who spelled out their plans for using the largest influx of EU funding ever to come into Knin. The city had previous funding of 15.67 million Euros of which the IPA (Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance) funded 64% or 8.78 million Euros with the rest coming from the federal government. This was used in putting in all new sewer lines, a sewage treatment plant as well as new roads and sidewalks.
Of the four earmarked projects for funding, one will be renovation inside Knin’s most notable physical feature. Sitting atop the Spas hill is Croatia’s largest fortress and the second largest of all in Europe. It’s construction started in the eighth century. It covers over 30 acres and housed 3 towns separated by draw bridges. It was home to Croatia’s first kings, hence the term for Knin as Croatia’s Royal Town. Inside the fortress they will install more tourist oriented features including an outdoor stage or amphitheater for summer events. They will also renovate the existing restaurant as well as build an all new gift shop. New lighting will also be installed. There will be new educational signage explaining the features of the fortress and other tourist oriented enhancements. Outside the fortress there are plans for increased parking with terraced parking lots with ingress and egress. Currently the parking lot is up a narrow one lane road. At the bottom of the new terraced parking it will connect with a lower street.
A second project will focus on the Krka river. The City had already built an all new park near the Krka River bridge when you cross it to enter the town from the west. This park is most impressive with playground equipment for both children and adults as well as a rock face for climbers. They also improved the trails along this east bank with bicycle paths and benches all the way from the new park to where the Butizinica river merges with the Krka river. The new money will allow development of the west bank with bicycle paths, benches and camping facilities. The city has made a deal to acquire the old military building a short distance down the existing road on the west bank. This will be used for added tourist facilities.
A third project will be the revitalization of the Old Town. The Knin city government will be buying up damaged old buildings, restoring them and renting them for both retail space on the ground floor and residences upstairs. They will be putting in two hostels in the Old Town area as you enter Knin from the west coming from Sibenik and the Krka National Park. These hostels will be within a short walking distance to all the new features along the Krka river. A fourth project involves education with expansion of the Marko Marulic Polytechnic college here to include an innovation center. The city will also use funds to build two new bridges across the Butizinica river and the Marčinkovac river when you enter Knin from the north from Zagreb.
Knin is already a place of great natural beauty which is unique in many ways in Croatia. It is a small mountain town nestled in a valley between a historic fortress on one side and Croatia’s tallest mountain, the Dinara on the other. At the base of the mountain is the magnificent and ever changing Krcic falls. The Krka river emerges from a cave at the base of these falls. Along with all these features, it most likely is the only place in all of Croatia with seven streams flowing through it. I personally think it should be re-branded as the City of Kings and Land of Seven Streams. This new influx of capital along with the aforementioned improvements makes it easy to understand the analogy of the Phoenix rising, especially in light of how far Knin has evolved since the war over twenty years ago. This revitalization will go a long way to making Knin a major tourist destination for Inland Dalmatia. Mr. Blažević, the mayor of this special place, feels that Knin has a very bright future indeed!