Depopulation of coastal rural Lithuania: do regional parks stabilise the situation?
Regional parks in Lithuania preserve the most valuable physical and cultural components of the landscape, NATURA 2000 habitats, etc. Usually, they are located in natural or semi-natural landscapes of rural areas. These territories, however, have a higher depopulation rate than urbanised districts. Still, conservation priority areas were expected to attract young families as permanent residents and make their population more stable. This study aims to investigate changes in the rural population in three regional parks of the Klaipėda county to determine the number of abandoned villages (with 0 residents) and vanishing ones (with a population < 5), as compared to territories with no conservation regime. The article examines migration as one of the determinants of depopulation. Analysis of national and local statistics, institutional documents, and structured interviews revealed that the conservation regime applied in regional parks did not necessarily encourage local people to stay or newcomers to arrive. Proximity to the sea and towns with developed social infrastructure remains a priority when looking for a residence in the countryside.