Sixteen candidates for new national parks in Finland
One of those nominated is Porkkala, taken off the list 55 years ago
By Juhani Saarinen
The small boat is tied up to the shore of an island, and Tapani Veistola leaps onto the rocks.
”Right! Let’s turn Träskön back into a national park!” he exclaims.
Veistola works as a specialist at the Finnish Associaton for Nature Conservation, and he is very excited.
This is his first visit to the island of Träskön off the Porkkala peninsula in Kirkkonummi, west of the capital.
The island, about one kilometre in length, is like archipelago nature in compact form.
The brood of a Common Merganser (Mergus merganser) is swimming away from beside the rocks in order to escape the invaders, while an Eurasian Hobby (Falco subbuteo) is wheeling in the sky above.
There is a pond on the island, surrounded by seaside meadows and dry pine heath forests.
If the wish expressed by the Uusimaa District of the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation is successful, the island - also known as Storlandet - will in the future be a part of the Porkkala National Park.
Early this summer, the Ministry of the Environment requested proposals for new national parks.
In addition to Porkkala, the number of suggested candidates was 15.
In Veistola’s view, the peninsula of Porkkalanniemi would be a great choice, as the location already has 24 state conservation areas, two seal protection areas, and a number of popular bird-watching areas.
”A very representative marine park near the Helsinki metropolitan area. The growing capital region will increase the need for nature reserves and recreation facilities”, Veistola explains.
Veistola says that if the proposed area were chosen as a national park, it would make it easier to combine protection and recreational uses.
”The islands have been filled with houses and yacht clubs. The number of vacant shorelines is declining all the time”, says Aki Arkiomaa, Director of BirdLife Finland, who has been moving around in the district a lot.
The speciality of Porkkalanniemi is its recent history, signs of which can still be seen on Träskön.
There is a large cave, excavated at the foot of a low cliff, and rusty pieces of barbed wire have intertwined with the pines.
Träskö became a national park already in 1938, but in the post-war period it remained a part of the area leased to the Soviet Union (see linked articles from 2004).
Once the Soviet troops had left in 1956, pretty much all that remained was a number of blasted fortifications and bunkers, and the national park status was withdrawn in 1957.
Subsequently, the island has been taken over by another all-powerful occupier: nature.
Porkkala is likely to be a strong candidate for a new national park, but the bar has been set high.
National Parks No. 36 and No. 37 were established in Sipoonkorpi and the Bothnian Sea last year, but they had at least been mentioned separately in advance in the government programme. In the present programme, national parks are not referred to at all.
”Generally speaking, the national park network is very comprehensive”, says Environment Counsellor Jukka-Pekka Flander of the Ministry of the Environment.
According to Flander, the focus is now on complementing the present parks.
Minister of the Environment Ville Niinistö (Green League) is to decide in September whether some or any of these sixteen of these proposals will move forward.
These areas have been suggested to be turned into national parks
1. Käsivarsi, Enontekiö
The suggested national park would cover the Saanatunturi Fell and the major fells in the wilderness area.
2. Hossa, Suomussalmi
There is a hiking and camping area with views of lakes, ridges and fells in Suomussalmi. The area was chosen as the best hiking resort in Finland in 2011.
3. Vaara-Kainuu, Hyrynsalmi, and Puolanka
The landscape is dominated by an old escarpment forest, consisting mainly of spruces. Most of the land areas have already been protected.
The heart of the park would be Friendship Park, established in cooperation with the Soviet Union, which has five nature reserves on the Finnish side of the border.
5. Sanginjoki, Oulu
The recreational area is a short distance from the centre of Oulu. The problem is that the land-areas do not belong to the state.
6. Olvassuo Strict Nature Reserve, Pudasjärvi, and Utajärvi
The Olvassuo Strict Nature Reserve is a large protected swamp, which is one of the most imposing bog-areas in the country.
7. Ylä-Karjala, Nurmes
A natural park could be established around the Natura protected lakes hereabouts.
8. Southern Ostrobothnia
The Ostrobothnia district organization of the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation wants to form a park of a part of the province’s natural forest and swamp areas.
9. South Konnevesi, Rautalampi, and Konnevesi
Konnevesi is a lake in Central Finland with a barren and rocky shoreline.
10. Muuratsalo, Jyväskylä, and Muurame
A private person has proposed a natural park be established on Muuratsalo, which is a large and partly inhabited island in the northern part of Lake Päijänne.
11. Teisko, Tampere
The Tampere Association for Nature Conservation is proposing that the large forests owned by the City of Tampere would be reserved for a national park.
12. Evo, Hämeenlinna
Evo in Lammi is a popular camping and hiking area, and it is one of the largest forested areas in Southern Finland.
13. Vanajavesi, Valkeakoski
The natural park could include for example Natura areas of the large lake Vanajavesi.
14. Eräjärvi and Kemppilä, Ruokolahti
Various kinds of swamp areas can be found in Ruokolahti in Southern Karelia. The province has no national parks as yet.
15. Teijo, Salo
There is a hiking area in Teijo, which has been set up in the forests of the old Teijo Manor estate.
16. Porkkala, Kirkkonummi
There has already been a national park in Porkkala, but it lost its status in the 1950s after the lease period with the Soviet Union expired.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 2.8.2012
Previously in HS International Edition:
Sixty years ago: Parliament within range of Soviet guns (5.10.2004)
The iron curtain comes down, and "the world´s longest railway tunnel" is created (5.10.2004)
The Finnish Associaton for Nature Conservation
Existing National Parks in Finland (Wikipedia)
JUHANI SAARINEN / Helsingin Sanomat