By Bejay Browne
POLIS Chrysochous camping site is open for another season, still offering outdated facilities which were built in the early 1980s, and without a new investor in sight.
Polis mayor, Angelos Georgiou, along with the municipality have been talking about a master plan and mega upgrades needed for the site – at a cost of around 1.5 million euros – for a number of years, but as yet, nothing has changed.
In fact, since a ‘tree care’ programme initiated by the forestry department a couple of years ago, which saw 300 or so of the site’s famous eucalyptus trees cut and pruned, it is now facing the added problem of a lack of shady areas for visitors to erect their tents, on top of offering shabby, outdated public facilities.
Despite this, according to Lakis Matheou the current operator (in place since 2000), the site welcomes 10,000 visitors a year.
“We are at our busiest during July and August,” he told the Sunday Mail.
Contrary to the mayor’s notion that a large investment is required in order implement a master plan, Matheou said that minimal changes are all that’s required to attract new visitors and offer a better camping experience. This is something he would be prepared to undertake himself, he said.
“I don’t believe that we need an investor for such a large amount of money. I believe we need to change some small things and keep the character as it is. People come here because they like the way the forest meets the sea, the environment is natural and the atmosphere is quiet and away from the people. “
However, he noted that visitors have changed over the years, many of them now bring all sort of gadgets with them, including TVs and even washing machines. Some are noisy, especially during the public holiday period in August, blaring out sound systems and karaoke machines, he added.
“For me, these people don’t understand the concept of camping. They think they are coming for a cheap holiday and don’t get the idea of being in the countryside and surviving with just a small gas stove to cook on. They ruin the idea of camping.”
The site was created by the Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO) in the late 1970s early 1980s. Facilities haven’t’ been changed since then and are in desperate need of upgrading.
The mayor said that the camping site attracts many visitors, both local and foreign, who fall in love with the idyllic Blue Flag beach and stunning location. However, he believes that a 1.5 million euros overhaul is needed to spruce it up.
“We are currently completing the procedures to allow the campsite to go to tender and secure an investor; they will follow the approved master plan. Recently, after partial modification of design, planning permission was finally granted,” the mayor told the Sunday Mail.
The site is open from late April to October, depending on the weather, and although most people camp using tents there are a number of caravans in place all year long, with special permission (the owners visit during May to October).
Matheou said that he has seen the ‘proposed upgrading’ plan and although not sure about the materials being used, is sure there will be concrete used somewhere.
Campers, Alexi from Nicosia and Shayal from North London said that using materials such as concrete would have a massively negative effect.
“The whole point is to be in nature and not have all of these man made things. Up to now it’s pretty minimal, it’s not a good idea.”
They added that the location is unique and camping in a forest next to the beach is a special experience which should be preserved.
According to the mayor, the design and master plan provide significant upgrades, including the reception buildings, a recreation centre, toilets, showers, creating new road surfaces, upgrading water supply and electricity, determining the areas that will accommodate caravans, spaces for tents and creating a children’s playground.
Other changes include a lake to solve the problems caused by water from a spring at the site will be introduced and upgrading and enriching of green areas, and a series of other projects that will embellish the site and make it more attractive, he said.
He added that once a budget is secured, the municipality will assume the management of the site and that they are currently working towards co-financing the project with a European programme.
Georgiou said that precise timetables would be set once the tender process is completed. In the meantime, minor upgrades are being made to keep the camp site in good repair, paying particular attention to cleanliness and safety, he noted.
Upgrading of the site is not the only problem facing the area, coastal erosion also poses a huge problem for the stretch of coastline.
“Since 2000, the beach is getting smaller and smaller due to erosion which is a problem for the entire island, but in particular this coastline. A couple of years ago the beach was literally sliced away during a week in the winter,” said Matheou.
The second phase to construct a series of ten wave breakers with the aim of protecting the coastline from erosion, including the beach in front of the campsite, got underway in the area six weeks ago.
“The second phase to construct parallel wave breakers in Polis Chrysochous Bay is underway and aims to protect the coastline from erosion,” the mayor said. “They will improve the beaches in the area, which will enrich our tourism product.”
The construction will take 30 months, with a recess during July and August.
The camp site is owned by the forestry department and leased to the municipality for an initial period of 15 years, with a renewal option of two further periods. The municipality rent it out to Matheou.
“I believe they will not find an investor in the next couple of years due to the economy. It will be sad for me when I leave,” said Matheou. “It’s better they change the way they think and upgrade with less money and keep the charm. They believe an expensive upgrade will bring more tourists to the area, but I don’t agree.”