Uusimaa braces for Easter weekend rush on national parks

With the Uusimaa region sealed off from the rest of the country, officials expect a deluge at popular outdoor locations.

Daytrippers are being advised to pack a snack rather than gather around possibly crowded campfire sites. Image: Petteri Juuti / Yle

Social distancing rules set in place to contain the novel coronavirus pandemic have upended Easter vacation plans for many in Finland. For residents of Uusimaa in southern Finland especially, the options for enjoying the long weekend are narrower than ever, since the region has been sealed off from the rest of the country.

Getting out and about to enjoy nature in the springtime is not off the agenda though, so many will likely be heading to popular outdoor locations for a breath of fresh air.

Yle spoke with national park officials who provided a few guidelines that should be observed outdoors to curb the spread of the epidemic.

What should people consider when planning to spend time outdoors?

Liisa Neuvonen, a senior planning officer with Metsähallitus, the national parks and forestry management agency, said that there are three national parks in the Uusimaa region: Nuuksio in Espoo; Sipoonkorpi , which straddles Vantaa, Helsinki and Sipoo and the Tammisaari archipelago in the southwestern part of Uusimaa.

In addition to these locations, there are dozens of other natural attractions. However day trippers would do well to remember that there are still restrictions in place due to the pandemic and that it is important to avoid large gatherings outdoors as well. One way to prevent large groups massing is to plan a trip fairly early in the morning, or later towards evening, Neuvonen noted.

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A sign at Nuuksio national park warning visitors that park managers cannot vouch for the cleanliness of a public toilet. Image: Petteri Juuti / Yle

Visitors who are familiar with Nuuksio in particular, could consider seeking out new locations, perhaps closer to home. This would give others who haven't yet visited popular places such as Haukkalampi in Nuuksio or Sipoonkorpi, a chance to get to know them, Neuvonen advised.

Metsähallutis parks manager Teemu Laine said that now that there is less traffic due to the state of emergency, it might just be possible to find new forested destinations closer to motorways. Normally these locations would not be considered because of traffic-related noise, but they are likely to be more peaceful now.

How is Metsähallitus preparing for large crowds?

According to senior planner Neuvonen, the agency is expecting quite crowded conditions during the Easter weekend. As a result the organisation plans to have personnel on hand to direct traffic.

The most heavily-frequented locations are likely to be Haukkalampi, Nuuksio itself and Sipoonkorpi national park. Waterfronts as well as the Porkkalanniemi peninsula and its environs in Kirkkonumi will likely be popular attractions, the agency's expert said.

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Cars parked on the roadside near a hiking route in Sipoonkorpi national park on 21 March. Image: Eleni Paspatis / Yle

Metsähallitus is calling on people to remember to maintain appropriate distances from each other, even while outdoors, and to ensure good hand hygiene. Visitors should avoid crowding at campfire sites by bringing along a picnic basket with ready-packed snacks.

Parks manager Teemu Laine said that the agency has put up signs reminding people of the dangers of the coronavirus epidemic. Additionally, it has prohibited the use of poorly-ventilated places such as lean-tos and huts.

The Metsähallitus officials said that the agency had received more than the usual number of applications for fishing permits in recent weeks. In Nuuksio for example, fishing is permitted in all of the ponds and lakes, except for bodies of running water. Surface angling is allowed but other types of fishing require a permit.

Can municipal sports and nature sites be used?

Tapio Taskinen, Espoo city's outdoor sports manager, said that Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa have temporarily cancelled all guided nature hikes and park walks. Local sporting and outdoor sites are still open to the public, but officials are constantly monitoring the situation. If crowds begin to form on golf courses or at outdoor exercise facilities, they may be shut down. The public is also being advised to wear gloves when using outdoor gyms.

Chief inspector Pekka Höök of the Helsinki police department said that officers will be on hand to monitor activity at local nature outdoor exercise spots as part of regular patrols. If crowds do begin to form, police will intervene, he noted.