MP Talk gives members of parliament the opportunity to share their views on Finnish society with an international audience. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Helsinki Times.
Nature is one of Finland’s national treasures. It is close to practically every Finns’ heart and something indispensable to us, no matter whether one lives in a city, small town or the countryside.
Everywhere you go in this country, nature is close by and provides us with enormous possibilities for recreation. It can be a beautiful, relaxing getaway from the rush or stress of everyday life. In fact, recent studies acknowledge that spending just twenty minutes in a forest relieves stress and can even lower blood pressure.
In addition to being a source of wellbeing, nature is a key attraction for both foreign and domestic travellers in Finland. In 2016, Finnish National Parks contributed to our economy and employment by approximately 180 million euros. Sustainable nature tourism has huge potential to become an even more significant source of employment in the future. While we pursue making the most of that potential we need to make sure that we do it sustainably, attending to biodiversity and nature’s ability to continue providing us with the ecosystem services we so heavily depend on.
Even Helsinki and the capital region are surrounded by many amazing places to enjoy the wonders of nature. The National Parks of Nuuksio and Sipoonkorpi are located just outside Helsinki and are easy to reach by public transportation. Both national parks are suitable for visitors of all ages and, in addition to breathtaking nature experiences, they offer a number of services from campfire sites and camping areas to hiking, skiing and biking trails. In Nuuksio, one can visit the Finnish Nature Centre Haltia’s exhibitions to learn about the flora and fauna of the national park and capital region, or simply to explore Finland’s first public building made entirely of wood. And, if you get really lucky, you just might get a glimpse of the endangered flying squirrel.
For those who don’t particularly enjoy forest scenery, Helsinki offers various small islands along its cost. The most famous one is probably Suomenlinna, which is on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. A newer attraction is Vallisaari, which was actually opened for visitors last year. Both islands have a rich history as former sea fortresses. For those who seek a quieter and more nature-focused experience, Vallisaari is the place to go. At Suomenlinna, on the other hand, one has plenty of restaurants and cafes to choose from, as well as museums and even a summer theatre.
Given nature’s central role in Finnish society, it is hardly a surprise that one of the highlights of Finland’s centenary celebrations was founding Hossa National Park, our fortieth such park, in Kainuu and North Ostrobothnia. I was happy to be part of the legislative work needed for the new National Park, as well being in attendance for its opening in early June. Should you travel up north, Hossa is truly worth a visit!
My favourite nature spot in Helsinki is Keskuspuisto. It starts almost from the centre of Helsinki and continues north through the city. It is easy to reach and it offers huge amount of tracks and routes for walking, running or biking in the middle of the forest.
Enjoy Finnish nature!
The writer is the Minister for Housing, Energy and the Environment in Juha Sipilä’s government. Mr. Tiilikainen has previously served as the Minister for Agriculture and the Environment and Minister for the Environment. He has been a Member of Parliament since 2003. Before his political career, Mr. Tiilikainen worked as an organic farmer.
Photo: Teemu Kuusimurto / Image bank of the Environmental Administration