The Po Delta Park

Written by  Angelo Giubelli
A unique resource between natural excellence and development model
The Po Delta-Emilia Romagna regional park, which extends over some 54.050 hectares, is the most important park in the Region and the largest in Italy.
It covers part of the province of Ferrara and Ravenna, directly affecting the municipalities of Alfonsine, Argenta, Cervia, Codigoro, Comacchio, Goro, Mesola, Ostellato and Ravenna.
The statutory aims of the Emilia-Romagna Park are the protection of the historical Delta of the River Po and the implementation of measures designed to develop the human, social and cultural values of the area.
The land covered by the park is divided into six 'stations' reflecting their natural, landscape and historical characteristics. 
The Director of the Park is the architect Lucilla Previati. In response to questions regarding the future of the Park, Mrs Previati says: ''This is a job which has brought me constant enrichment, despite the intricate management problems in an area as complex as the Po Delta. However, the Park's most recent financial statement shows an increase from one million to 3.5 million Euro, and staff numbers have risen from 7 to 40, of whom 33 are on contracts of indeterminate length, as well as an average of 10 people working on specific projects with their own time scales''.
One of the most obvious achievements of the Park is the restoration of a large part of the marinade production business, around which the economic activities of Comacchio long revolved. This measure revived the industry, setting up new production facilities for traditional marinated eels, and returning an ancient tradition to the town of Comacchio with its famous arched bridge.
How far do the inhabitants of the Park's area feel themselves closely involved in such initiatives, which are of such importance both environmentally and from a historical and cultural point of view?
''The area,'' Mrs Previati notes, ''is certainly very large and divided into areas which share local needs. A unifying tool is the introduction of a label guaranteeing the origin of products and their quality, obtained through low-impact methods and the improvement of the environmental characteristics. The label is awarded to fisheries, agricultural firms and salt companies located within the Park and available for our inspection.''
The label has so far been awarded to around thirty products. Agricultural products carrying the label include: asparagus, carrots, potatoes, radicchio, melons, watermelons, asparagus paste and wine from the Bosco Eliceo. The same label can also be awarded to aquaculture products-eels and sand smelts, fresh or marinated, anchovy paste, mullet, bass, sea bream, plaice, sole, gobies, prawns, shrimps, clams, mussels, and oysters.
Much of the efforts of the Park have been devoted to supporting bird life, with results amply demonstrated by the recent bird watching initiative attended by some 30.000 enthusiasts. For the last two decades, the progressive trend towards the destruction of the wildlife heritage has been stopped, and in some cases even reversed through protection of certain areas. Some species which have not bred here for over a century have returned: in 1986 cormorants returned to breed in the Argenta and Marmorta valleys; spoonbills returned in 1989; between the late 1970s and early 1980s Mediterranean gulls, the slender-billed gull, sandwich terns and the rare lesser crested tern also returned. Predators such as wolves, badgers, weasels and martens have rapidly repopulated the plain, moving outwards from the Apennines across the rivers and waterways. The presence of dune deer in the Gran Bosco della Mesola is certainly reassuring.
A highly prestigious Life project, largely implemented in the Delta Park, is that for ''improving the habitat for birds and the reclamation of electrical installations.''