On 16th January at the annual Finnish Sports Gala in Helsinki, Metsähallitus was granted a special award for designing facilities that encourage people to enjoy outdoor activities in natural settings across Finland. Metsähallitus provides and maintains free facilities that make it easy for visitors to Finland’s national parks and other beautiful natural areas to get out into the wild. These facilities include attractive visitor centres, websites with useful and practical information, and trails totalling 6,738 km – almost six times the length of Finland.
Metsähallitus manages all of Finland’s 37 national parks and many more of the country’s best loved natural attractions. To encourage everyone to explore these natural wonders, Metsähallitus Natural Heritage Services designs, builds and maintains unobtrusive and ecologically sustainable facilities that can be freely and safely used by all kinds of people.
These facilities include well maintained hiking and skiing routes with a total length of 6,738 km, more than 3,000 picnic sites and shelters, and more than 2,000 eco-toilets and waste collection points. The areas managed by Metsähallitus Natural Health Services annually welcome around 4.8 million visitors who come to enjoy physical activities including walking, trekking, canoeing, rowing, swimming, riding, snowshoe-trekking and cross-country skiing.
”This is all highly significant in terms of promoting public health,” Metsähallitus’s Director General Jyrki Kangas explained on receiving the award at the sports gala. “Research findings have shown that in addition to improving people’s physical fitness, outdoor activities in natural areas can also reduce stress, lower people’s blood pressure, and improve their powers of concentration.”
”The routes and other facilities we provide are also carefully designed to ensure that nature does not suffer even in our most popular national parks,” added Rauno Väisänen, director of Metsähallitus Natural Heritage Services. “This is also important for our visitors, since their unspoilt natural scenery is what attracts people to these areas. This award gives welcome recognition to the work of our staff – and to the efforts of Parliament, the Ministry of the Environment, and the Ministry of Forestry and Agriculture, who all oversee and fund this work.”