10 years ago the Wadden Sea was designated as World Heritage site. To celebrate this anniversary the Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation (TWSC) and its partners organised a transboundary bike rally from Denmark and the Netherlands to Wilhelmshaven. A big celebration honoured the arrival of the cyclists at the finish line on Sunday, 30 June 2019. The Wadden Sea World Heritage Experience Festival on the Jade Bay embankment was attended by 40 cyclists, as well as several international guests and numerous individual visitors. The festival was organized by the Common Wadden Sea Secretariat (CWSS), the National Park Authority “Niedersächsisches Wattenmeer” and the UNESCO Wadden Sea World Heritage Visitor Centre Wilhelmshaven.
“The World Heritage title is an honour, but also a responsibility to preserve this unique ecosystem for future generations,” said event patron Olaf Lies, Minister of the Environment, Energy, Building and Climate Protection of Lower Saxony. Following an ecumenical service with a view of the sea by Pastor Lemke-Paetznick, the Minister together with the Parliamentary State Secretary Rita Schwarzelühr-Sutter officially opened the experience market. There, visitors were able to get information on associations, non-profit organizations and other institutions connected to the Wadden Sea, discover Wadden Sea products and interact in activities for young and old.
Many used the open day to discover the Wadden Sea Visitor Centre. Further, the documentary "Silence of the Tides", which will be released in 2020, was presented and, for the first time in Germany, the one-man play about the migratory red knot was performed by Theo Smedes – still in Dutch with German subtitles. A German version is currently being rehearsed in cooperation with the Landesbühne Niedersachsen Nord and will be shown in German schools and educational institutions starting in autumn.
The highlight of the day, however, was the arrival of the cyclists. Just two weeks earlier, two core teams with representatives from TWSC partner organizations started in Ho Bucht, Denmark and on Vlieland, Netherlands. The transboundary anniversary bike tour was regularly accompanied by interested day visitors, including school classes, clubs, NGOs and individual participants. The organisers counted a total of 550 day visitors. “I was very impressed by how big the group grew on some days,” said Cris Toala Olivares, a freelance photo journalist, who drove about 500 kilometers from Ho Bucht to Wilhelmshaven. “For me this is a sign of how much the World Heritage is supported by the local people. This kind of support is not a given.”
Parliamentary Secretary of State Rita Schwarzelühr-Sutter welcomed the cyclists when they arrived at the event location around noon and accepted the 70 puzzle pieces collected on the trip: Each region on the Wadden Sea contributed a puzzle piece with a personal message. The complete work, assembled on stage by junior rangers, shows the Wadden Sea and its regions. The vocational school of Wittmund then distributed about 400 pieces of a big birthday cake among the visitors.
At the event another milestone in the trilateral cooperation was set. Representatives of the environmental NGOs, the Wadden Sea research sector, the Wadden Sea Forum and the sustainable tourism sector signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the TWSC. The Memorandum titled "Trilateral Partnership to Support the Wadden Sea World Heritage" aims to further deepen the cooperation in form of a partnership hub that will become part of the new Partnership Center in Wilhelmshaven.
The “birthday party” guests, who travelled the furthest, were a delegation of the South Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries. Since the 1990s, the institutions of the East Asian country responsible for the South Korean tidal flats “Getbol” and the three Wadden Sea states have maintained a close cooperation. Ho Lee, Deputy Director of the Ministry, presented the exchange during a symposium focussing on the anniversary motto “One Wadden Sea: Our heritage. Our future” held in the afternoon.
The Anniversary Bike Tour and the final event are sponsored by the Danish Ministry for Environment and Food, the Dutch Ministry for Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, the German Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, as well as the Lower Saxon Ministry for Environment, Energy, Building, and Climate Protection and the European Union in the framework of the Interreg project PROWAD LINK.