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Four nautical miles to the north of Ulqin, between Mavrijen and Mendra, lies the horseshoe-shaped Valdanos Bay. Valdanos bay, is located in northwest of Ulcinj, the southern city in Montenegro. The beach stretches nearly 600m long and about 20m wide in a sheltered bay. the beach is single, composed of round stones 1-20 cm in diameter Unlike other bays, this one is protected from both southern and northern winds and it often served to shelter ships during storms.

This area is a treasure in historical, geographical and spiritual life of native population. This was not just a natural shelter, but also a shelter to a glorious story. That is the main reason of targeting this abandoned space, through which we could try and explain the power of nature over the power of suppression.

Valdanos bay is known as second largest preserved olive grove in the Mediterranean with over 500 thousand square meters with 74 thousand olive trees. The average age olive is over 300 years, and some of them date from the days of Ancient Greece (5th century B.C.). The famous Ulqini olive oil, in amphoras earthenware pots, was a commodity worth its weight in gold when shipped to Trieste, Venice Rome, Cairo. For thousands of years generations of peaceful residents tended to their olive trees, establishing tradition along the way (example: A man would plant an olive tree before he could marry his bride).

Pirates and shippers alike have sought shelter in Valdanos bay for protection from the harsh winds. Armed conflict has left more than a handful of Roman, Greek, and Medieval shipwrecks on the sea floor. Wrecks of submarines are also rumored to reside in the area, which is considered a rich underwater archaeological site.

Residents of Valdanos have been expropriated from their land twice in the 20th century. The first instance came in 1949 when the government wanted to establish a state-run agricultural program. When this failed, residents re-claimed the land. The second expropriation came in 1978 when the Federal Secretariat for National Defense of Yugoslavia claimed the land for military purposes.

Existing owners were given meager compensation well below market value, and forced to leave. The expropriation began in 1978. Residents were dispossessed of their property and given a meager compensation of 10 cents per square foot ($1 per square meter), and $60 (£36/€43) per olive tree. Of the 200 families displaced, 184 accepted the initial terms. The sixteen brave enough to decline and sue the state were later awarded three times the original amount. Government plan was to build a Military base, both naval and terrestrial.

Determend Challenges

Challenges that are being evident after return of the land to its rightful owners:

  • Ownership challenge
  • Contamination
  • Lack of ideas for activation
  • Lack of human resources and lack of expertise

From June 11, 2021 owners have three years to make an application for returning the land. That places the ownership over the vacant and abandoned objects in Valdanos Resort in a whole new situation. So for now the objects inside the resort are owned by different owners. There seems a lack of interest from the owners to abandoned objects but there is a diversity of resources which could attract right investments.

Contamination of abandoned complex (resort), is happening for more than twenty years. It has been a period of 14 years that resort is left unused and not much left from it. But there is still good infrastructure left behind. Very well planned road, with right approach to accessing whole area and lot of other positive sides are seen in site.

As we mentioned before, there were two failed attempts to revitalize the resort. First On March of 2008, and second In April of 2011. Both resulted unsuccessful. Both times the request was very ambitious (f.e was requested golf field with 16 holes), and  let the locals very frustrated with what was going on. Different reasons, from economical crisis to lack of ideas for activation lead this complex to the very unwanted situation.

It was never a good approach to resolving the Valdanos situation. Yet, lack of human resources could not be major cause, but still it is considered as a cause. Both Local and central government never did a good research on what could be the best for Valdanos to get revitalized. Lack of expertise is a major cause which missleaded the process of revitalization. With the right approach, there could have been a different result, which could let both sides (owners and government) in advantage.

Vacant spaces in Valdanos Bay. Source: New Horizon

Why it's important?

In the framework of this large complex, we have targeted an object / barracks, which once served as the administrative building of the military resort.

This building, although abandoned for years, is still in good condition in terms of its construction structure. The building has many offices and meeting rooms. This concept could make it suitable space for a youth educational center, in which various events could be organized, such as seminars, trainings, summer camps, and alike. This facility could also be used for offices for local civil society organizations, which do not have their own working space.

Considering that this locality during the past period has been completely under state control and that only from this year there has started free movement and return of properties, it is necessary a careful synchronization of steps on how to obtain an adequate permit for the use of this abandoned facility.

As for the present situation, there could be some possibilities to preserve the current environment contents and maybe either give them a second chance. Roads, public lights, abandoned objects, partly ruined sidewalks, walking routes etc are waiting to get a new epilogue. Some could be used with small interventions; others could be mostly rebuilt as some of them could be used as a symbol of the time they represent. In that prism, the potential is enormous, still very fragile.

This step is already taking place for some parts of Valdanos Bay. Beach is being used, which gives positive feedback. Also roads are being maintained as owners return to their lands. Still, there is a lot more to do, a lot more to revitalize. Picturesque walking path could be one of first things to revitalize, which could maintain himself, as every year more tourists are coming over.

Ulqin as a city in which Valdanos gravitates, depends a lot on tourism (more than 70% of businesses and locals are kind of connected to tourism). Every added value to this part would have a positive effect on tourist offer of the city and therefore add a value to city and community. On the other side, a good approach to the existing situation could have a positive impact on community and their approach to existing abandoned and vacant spaces all around.

Case study extracted from the Research Report. Prepared by New Horizon.

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