How and why can urban forest represent wilderness?

How and why can urban forest
represent wilderness?
Eveliina Asikainen
Doctroral student in Environmental Policy
University of Tampere
Department of Regional Studies
[email protected]
Hervanta – a Finnish suburb
Built in a forest
Planning started 1965
Construction started: 1972
First residents: 1973
Population: 25 000
(about 4500 are students)
Nationalities: 1+75
(7,8% are other than Finnish)
Suolijarvi forests on City of
Tampere web pages
You can find caves and hollows
in the Suolijärvi forests
The Suolijärvi recreation forest serves as outdoor sporting,
recreation and nature enthsiasm activities of Hervanta dwellers
Methods and Materials
• Walking interviews with inhabitants of
• Descriptions of Suolijärvi forest produced
by the inhabitants
– photos in the internet
– poems
– blogs
The Finnsh Wilderness Experience
• Wilderness = erämaa (nautinta-alue)
– most originally an area which has been
marked or lined out
– forest covered hunting and fishing areas
located well away from village borders
– part of satisfying physical basic needs of
every day life
Words Finns use most often to
describe wilderness
• Area in its natural
• completely
• old virgin forest
• completely roadless
• vast
• peacefull silent
Forest (in general)
Mire without ditches
Mire (in general)
Lot of living organisms
Clean, without rubbish
Hallikainen 1998: The Finnish wilderness experience. Finnish Forest Research Institute
Research Papers,711.
Wilderness in the walking
Structure of the forests
in the surroundings of lake
Suolijärvi it…it hasn’t been spoilt
by management. It has been
thinned out enough, but still there
is some little more natural like
areas. (Man about 30)
I think people consider this quite natural.
We let the fallen trees lie (City forester)
Making difference between parks
and forests
– Those parks we visit, here we hike.
– backwoods
– real forests
– being in the middle of forests
– going as deep in the forest as possible
Practicing wilderness
• rubber boots
• taking coffee and
something to eat
• not following paths,
• expecting to meet
• making fires
• building huts
Contrast – mental distance
• Just a small walk and you are in the middle of the
forest and hear nothing but birds singing and
those lakes are near by, just go and sit on a pier
for a while. I wouldn’t live here, if there weren’t
forests and lakes. My two worlds match well here
(woman 24 years in Pikkupeura 2005).
Peace – space - freedom
May be I myself like to be specially in such a place
where I don’t have to go side by side with other
people and so… there isn’t such an awful crowd
here…you don’t have to give way to anybody. This is
such a soothing place for me myself (Woman, about
Often I spot a place on the map, somewhere I have
never been. And if only I have time I take off skiing.
Last winter I watched from the map… There was
often tracks all the way and sometimes I had to go the
last couple of hundred meters in snow maybe. (Man,
about 55).
• of getting lost
• of animals
• of trees…
but it adds value to the forest
Wilderness in representations
of Lake Suolijärvi
Suolijärvi forest on Hervanta
web pages and nature trail
• Traditional Lapland
photograph... but
instead is from
Suolijärvi, Hervanta,
Tampere, Finland
Dangerous herwoodian crocodile
A sunset at a smaller lake near Suolijärvi in Hervanta.
Wilderness revisited
• is always in relation to other environments,
culture and the social setting; negotiated
• In this case is constructed of
– space, nearness and wildness + residents’ activities
• Orginally served to satisfy physical basic needs
– now more psychological and social needs like health,
revitalisation, being alone
Implications to Urban forestry
Meanings people give don’t fit classifications
2. Photos & in depth interviews are promising methods to
find out about feelings, emotions and representations
Traditional concepts like wilderness can offer tools for
Taking wildness of a forest as a positive value and
something to be maintained and developed