Several areas in Helsinki are being monitored to better combine recreation, tourism and nature assets. Residents and visitors value the peace of nature in recreations areas, but also want services. The Urban Eco Islands project is implementing ways of monitoring and controlling recreational use while protecting nature assets with the help of smart solutions, such as drone photography.
The City is opening new island destinations for tourism use in accordance with the Helsinki Maritime Strategy. This summer, people have been able to take a waterbus to Vasikkasaari island next to Suomenlinna. Vasikkasaari has now been opened for public use. The island is also a development site of the recently started Urban Eco Islands project. The same project is also developing Aegna island in Tallinn.
The number of visitors to nature areas varies greatly depending on the day of week, time of year, accessibility and popularity. The number of visitors to the very popular accessible duckboards route in Lammassaari in Helsinki is now being monitored with a visitor counter for the second year in a row, for example. The top figure for the duckboards in Lammassaari was around 2,200 visitors in a day, and there are approximately 138,000 visits to the area each year. This number corresponds to the annual number of visitors to Repovesi national park in southeast Finland.
The fact that Vasikkasaari, which was only opened to the public this summer, is lesser known, was evident in the number of visitors, which was significantly lower than in other similar nature destinations.
Visitor counters will also be added to other nature areas in addition to Vanhankaupunginlahti in Helsinki.
The counters allow for the identification of the most popular nature destinations of the City and the assessment of the impact of the visits on nature in each destination.
”The data on the number of visitors helps us plan the paths, resting spots and signposts in nature areas. We guide people to take marked routes in nature in order to preserve natural diversity and beauty,” says Team Manager Kaisa Pajanen from the City of Helsinki’s Environmental Services.
Smart solutions to help with monitoring natural value
The Urban Eco Islands project, together with the City of Helsinki innovation company Forum Virium, is testing smart solutions for monitoring nature and the environment on Vasikkasaari.
New, developing technology facilitates the utilisation of drones, for example, in monitoring nature on the island.
”Drone photography is quite simple and quick to use in favourable weather conditions. Flyovers can be repeated at regular intervals, making it easier than before, when we had to walk around on site, to conduct regular monitoring of erosion on routes and in nature,” says Environmental Inspector Tuomas Lahti.
Smart technology also makes it possible for people to enjoy the Vasikkasaari atmosphere virtually on a break from work, for example, thanks to the live-feed camera installed on the island. Smart technology identifies ships sailing past the camera and provides real-time information on air quality and noise levels.
Visitors value nature and services in recreational areas
The City of Helsinki wants to observe the wishes of residents and visitors in developing its recreational areas. Thanks to the Urban Eco Islands project, visitors to Vasikkasaari had the chance to take a visitor survey on the area over the summer.
Generally, visitors were very pleased with their visit to the island. According to the results, nearly 80 per cent of visitors said that the natural value was very important on the island, even more important than the cultural or recreational value. However, more than half of the respondents wanted the island to offer restaurant services.
“Urban people seek the peace of nature, but they also want urban services to be readily available,” says Urban Eco Islands Project Coordinator Annika Harlio from the City of Helsinki’s Environmental Services.
The City of Helsinki is the main coordinator of the two-year Urban Eco Islands project. Project partners include Forum Virium Helsinki, the City of Tallinn and the Tallinn unit of Stockholm Environment Institute. The project is funded by the European Regional Development Fund, Interreg Central Baltic.
Photo: Teemu Saloriutta / City of Helsinki
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