Vallisaari island prepares for visitors

Vallisaari, a previously closed island between the Helsinki island districts of Santahamina and Suomenlinna, will open to visitors in early summer 2016. The island will be an appealing destination thanks to its magnificent nature and old fortresses. During 2015, the island is prepared to receive visitors in 2016 by volunteers and workers of Metsähallitus, a state enterprise that administers state-owned land and water areas in Finland. City of Helsinki park workers have also contributed to turning the island into an attractive destination.

The Metsähallitus-administered Vallisaari is a gem in terms of biodiversity, located only a short distance away from the Helsinki city centre. The island is home to a large number of endangered species. The island’s history is part of Finland’s military history. The well-preserved fortresses were mainly built during Finland’s Russian era. After Finnish Independence in 1917, the island was turned into an arms depot for the Finnish military.

The island was home to hundreds of inhabitants all the way to the 1980’s. After that, the island was taken over by nature. The previously open landscape is now forested. According to nature conservation biologist Hanna-Leena Keskinen, the island will largely be kept in its new natural state, but the valuable fortresses will be displayed more prominently than before.

The island will also need services. In summer 2016, the island will be served by a café and toilets. The future plans include renovation of the old buildings and structures and increased services for visitors provided by entrepreneurs. Plans for the future include a marina.

Volunteers have played a major role in the island maintenance so far. Maintenance camps have been organized on the island, and more camps will be held this summer. City park workers removed trees and shrub at the fortresses and cleared the beach on 21 April.

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WWF Finland