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Three manicured parks in Kotka receive Green Flag Award

Communities around the world vie for the accolades, which a UK-based group hands to exemplary parks and green spaces.

Karhulan jokipuiston sydän on lummelampi.
Karhula River Park in Kotka, Finland. Image: Miina Sillanpää / Yle

Three public parks in the southern coastal city of Kotka have received the UK-based Green Flag Award, a distinction that is granted to well-managed recreational green spaces around the world.

The Sapokka Water Park, the Katariina Seaside Park and the Karhula River Park were recognized as quality areas by the UK-based group. The Green Flag Awards are handed out for a year at a time.

Green Flags are handed to cities with green spaces that score high on accessibility and management.

Tourism chief at Cursor, the regional development company for the region of Kotka and Hamina, Kati Paasi, said the award is a golden opportunity for businesses in the area.

"For instance, restaurants could sell picnic baskets with meals that customers could pick up and take to the park," she suggested.

To date, a total five Finnish green spaces have received the award. Previously, the Pikku-Vesijärvenpuisto Park in Lahti and Tampere's Hatanpää Villa Park and Arboretum in southern Finland received the accolade.

The award group's green-coloured flag is flown at each of parks it honours around the world, of which there are currently more than 2,000. Most of the group's accolades have been handed to parks and green spaces in the UK, but also in Mexico, Australia, New Zealand and the UAE.

Story continues after photo.

Istutuksia Kotkan Katariinan meripuistossa.
Katariina Seaside Park in Kotka, Finland. Image: Miina Sillanpää / Yle

Strict criteria

The first park in Finland to win a Green Flag was when the Häme University of Applied Sciences' campus park won the distinction in 2016.

In order to be eligble, local officials need to apply to the group to be considered for the award. After the application is accepted, a two-stage judging process begins.

"In this first stage the judges will assess the site-specific management plan and associated documentation, and a response to the judges’ feedback from the previous year," the award website stated.

The first phase is worth 30 out of 100 points, while the second is more rigorous.

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Sapokan vesipuisto Kotkassa vesiputouksineen.
Sapokka Water Park in Kotka, Finland. Image: Miina Sillanpää / Yle

"The second stage will comprise a site visit where the judges assess whether the management plan is in practice on the site, and how well the Green Flag Award expectations have been met, by observation and by questioning staff, volunteers and visitors."

The judges for the three Kotka parks were the award's primary judge Mary Atkins from the UK and local Tampere judges Sara Luhtaniemi and Titta Holmala-Kylmäkoski. The judges assessed the three locations in eight different categories, which together contained 27 quality criteria.

Sustainable management, accessibility and opportunities for visitors to contribute to the area's wellbeing is also a priority.

"One of the main points is how a regular citizens can use the park," said Holmala-Kylmäkoski. "We also scrutinise how true to nature and how safe the areas are."

The Green Flag Award is coordinated in Finland by the Finnish Association of Landscape Industries.

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