The Mount Parnitha National Park, north of Athens, may be divided into zones offering graded levels of protection so that its forestland and natural beauty can be preserved alongside the development of the former royal estate at Tatoi and other areas, Environment and Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias said yesterday. A draft presidential decree signed by Souflias yesterday foresees the division of the park’s 30,000-hectare expanse into 16 zones, two of which will offer «absolute protection» and will be accessible only to scientists carrying out research activities, with the exception of a handful of public routes, including a large section of the former royal estate at Tatoi. «The creation of zones offering absolute protection addresses the increasing human presence (in Parnitha) and safeguards the core of the national park, including a large part of the Tatoi estate,» Souflias said. According to forestland authorities, the 1,400-meter mountain and surrounding region accommodates 1,100 types of flora, 45 different mammals and 130 species of birds while receiving up to 380,000 visitors per year. The rest of the proposed zones would permit certain sports and leisure activities on the park’s grounds and in some cases the erection of kiosks offering information on cultural or environmental issues. In restricted cases, the establishment of small refreshment stands would be allowed. The plans also herald the creation of an official body to oversee the development of the Tatoi estate, which would host sports and leisure activities, while the former royal mansion would be transformed into a museum or into a conference and exhibition center. The state officially took possession of the estate in November 2002 when ex-king Constantine received compensation for the expropriated property following a European Court decision, but it has yet to utilize the site.