Tight money keeps former military islands off Helsinki off-limits to public
Former military outposts require repairs
The islands of Vallisaari, Kuninkaansaari, and Kuivasaari off Helsinki's coast will not be open to the public any time soon, because the Ministry of Finance has not come up with a way to pay for repairs and maintenance of the islands, which are being relinquished by the Finnish Defence Forces.
“We would have to come up with activities that would bring cash flow”, says Helena Tarkka, a high-ranking civil servant of the Finance Ministry.
The Defence Forces have already left the islands of Vallisaari and Kuninkaansaari near the fortress island of Suomenlinna.
Rysäkari, a smaller island located southwest of Lauttasaari, was recently sold to a private buyer, Tom Kaisla, who plans to set up a conference centre, a restaurant, and a hotel on the island.
Organised excursions have already been arranged to Kuivasaari. The lands on Kuivasaari, Kuninkaansaari, and Vallisaari are the responsibility of Metsähallitus, which administers state-owned land in Finland. Buildings on the islands are controlled by Senate Properties, which manages property assets of the Finnish state.
The Ministry of Finance had planned to set up a working group in the late summer to examine options for using the islands. However, the work is not expected to begin until next year.
The ultimate aim is to open the islands to the public. However, much work is needed first. Some of the old structures are in poor repair and could collapse, and there may still be explosives on the islands.
The islands also have cultural history value. The oldest of the fortress structures are from the 19th century, which means that any alterations would have to be approved by the National Board of Antiquities.
The restricted access to the islands that were under the control of the Defence Forces has helped maintain the natural diversity of wildlife there.
There are many endangered and rare species living on the island, and there have been calls to restrict visits to organised tours.
Tarkka is also open to suggestions from the public.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Parliament to decide on handing over military islands to City of Helsinki (27.10.2008)
Defence Forces to withdraw from four islands off Helsinki (6.10.2008)
Helsinki wants to introduce more islands to recreational use (11.8.2011)