Petition started – Nature lovers: “We need money for cottages in Lower Austria!”

“You advertise a climbable Lower Austria, don’t advertise it,” says Ernst Dalnick, head of Naturfreunde Lower Austria. “People break down our doors on the weekends.”

There are 95 alpine huts in Lower Austria, run by nature lovers, the Alpine Club, the Austrian Tourist Club and the Austrian. Mountaineering Association (ÖBV). But the maintenance and repair costs cannot be covered by the ongoing operation of the cottage. Management hours are sometimes short when the cottages only operate in the summer and on weekends. The authorities’ requirements regarding trade regulations are strict and some cottages are up to 150 years old – they require regular renovations.

Ernst Dulnick, Regional Manager of the Naterfreunde Lower Austria.

Austria under naturalists

More than half a million day guests each year

Every year there are more than half a million day guests and more than 36,000 overnight guests at the cottages in Lower Austria. Club members invest about 190,000 hours in maintaining the infrastructure, but not enough money. “Of the 95 huts in Lower Austria, some are run by volunteers,” explains Dalnick. For example the Zdarskyhütte in the Turnitz Alps. This means that the volunteers are responsible for looking after the guests who come there on weekends.

A small fraction of the cottages are run by tenants, “but tenants want a functional cottage,” Dalnick says. This applies not only to a functioning kitchen and water and sewage system, but also to accommodation options. Today, guests expect rooms in cottages—the classic mattress accommodations are largely obsolete, Dalnick says.

Investments in new buildings from photovoltaic systems

And many of the cottages are not functioning as they should be – or are in urgent need of renovation. This involves sums that clubs cannot manage. Dulnigg names some current projects: 215,000 euros are to be invested in the Türnitzer Hütte der Naturfreunde to get the sewage system, energy supply and kitchen in shape.

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The Habsburg House in Schwarzau, run by the ÖGV mountain association, is to be completely renovated, costing around 750,000 euros. At the Prochenberghütte in Ybbsitz, the building structure had to be renovated and a new energy supply installed, which cost around 350,000 euros.

The Hochker accommodation in Göttingen, run by the Austrian tourist club ÖTK, requires the largest investment by far: a replacement building is required, costing 2 million euros.

When should it happen? “From now on,” Dalnik says. That is why an application for funding has already been submitted to the government. The investment requirement for one year is 2.1 million euros and for three years it is 6.4 million euros. This money is needed only by Lower Austria.

Central government finances have not been adjusted since 2013

There is funding from the federal government and the EU, but it is not enough for a total of 272 Alpine refugees: the VAVÖ of Austrian Alpine Clubs receives 2.72 million euros annually in non-reimbursable grants for specific conservation and development activities. Central government .

In addition, EU funds from the Agricultural Fund are also used for Alpine infrastructure: this funding program worth 1.2 million euros is used to support structural and technical investments in publicly accessible refuges that fall under the category “Alpine refuge”.

Alpine refuges are tourist resorts located in mountainous areas, with at least 10 guest beds that are not accessible by car and can be reached within at least half an hour from a public road or parking lot.

The four Alpine clubs that take care of refugees in Lower Austria now want to work together with the state of Lower Austria to develop an effective concept for financial support. The state government has also been requested to increase the financial support from the central government. “They haven’t been adjusted for inflation since 2013,” Dalnick says.

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Dalnik calculates that the annual budget of Nature Friends Lower Austria is 130,000 euros. “Our 29 huts must be protected. Of this 130,000 euros, we invested 90,000 euros in photovoltaics and new foundations for the Zdarsky cottage last year. So in only one hut.

Given the great importance of the resorts for tourism in Lower Austria, they must now be taken into account in the state budget. The application is pending in the country – what will happen to it is still up in the air.

Alpine clubs and their huts in Lower Austria

Alpine Club, Lower Austria Regional Association: 27 cottages in Lower Austria
Members Lower Austria 40,196, Vienna: 223,460

Austria under Nature Friends: 29 cottages in Lower Austria
Members Lower Austria: 34,265, Vienna: 16,697

Austrian Tourist Club ÖTK: 17 cottages in Lower Austria
Members Lower Austria: 4,165, Vienna: 19,827

Austrian Mountaineering Association ÖBV: 14 cottages in Lower Austria
Members Lower Austria: 1,611, Vienna: 987

Miscellaneous: 8 cottages in Lower Austria

Total: 95 cottages in Lower Austria
Source: VAVÖ, Association of Alpine Clubs in Austria, according to May 2023

Current Projects: Renovation Requirements and Costs

– Türnitzerhütte (Türnitz): waste water, energy, kitchen – 215,000 euros
– Habsburg House (Schwarzhausen): general renovation – 750,000 euros
– Prochenberghütte (Ybbsitz): building structure, energy supply – 350,000 euros
– Joseph-Franz-Hatte (Rabenstein): Water supply – 40,000 euros
– Hochkar shelter (Göstling): replacement building – 2 million euros

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