TRAIL MIX: City slickers can benefit from a weekend in the forest, enjoying the fresh air and wild animals.
TALLINN - Life today demands an escape from the routine, and what better way than to spend a couple of days at a destination that will allow you to leave your city life behind and be with nature. Simply to enjoy. To rejuvenate. A brief get-away prepares you to be back to your city life with renewed vigor.
Estonia, Finland and Sweden are the countries with the greatest percentage of forested land. Almost half of Estonian territory (47.6 per cent) is under forest and woodlands; the area of forest stands has more than doubled during the last 50 years and is still growing. The largest forests can be found in the northeast and in Mid-Estonia - a zone stretching from the northern coast to the Latvian border.
For those who are nature-lovers, Estonian State Forest Management Company (RMK) offers a good opportunity to be close to nature and enjoy it. Historically, most forests were owned by German landlords and churches; today, nearly half the forested land belongs to the state, easing conservation efforts. In early 2002, RMK received FSC certification, a sign of responsibility and commitment to sustainable forestry practices. This important step was largely a fruit of the efforts of ELF and other conservation organizations in Estonia. Private forests in Estonia today face extremely strong felling pressure, and ecologically valuable forests can rarely be saved unless they are in protected areas.
Hiking is one of the fundamental outdoor activities on which many others are based. The principal aim of these hiking trips is to introduce visitors to the unique natural heritage and wildlife of Estonia, which have fortunately been preserved at many places in our country thanks to enlightened attitudes towards conservation, and a deep-rooted tradition of respect for the natural world.
By way of accommodation, RMK offers hikers’ campsites, huts and cottages (forest houses) in the forest. Whereas campsites and huts are free to use for anyone who would like to, based on the common right of access, forest houses provide greater privacy, and therefore the payment of a “key fee” is required.
RMK’s campsites, huts and forest houses are located far from public roads and away from human settlement. A campsite is equipped with dedicated facilities (fire places, shelters, dry toilets). Both forest houses and huts have a simple structure, one room as a rule and Spartan furnishings (table, bench, bedstead and hearth).
As of May 15, for those moving around in nature across Estonia, 23 RMK information desks are now open, providing expert advice and information materials on trails in nature and other recreation sites and natural features. “Great weather is attracting more people into the forest; when planning leisure time in nature, it is definitely worth it also to stop by RMK information desks,” said Marge Rammo, Head of the Recreation Management Department at RMK.
“There, you can get help to plan your route, test your nature awareness and join the ‘In Cahoots with the Woods’ club of forest friends.”
Last year, there were 62,600 visits to RMK information desks during the summer season; all together, recreation areas, national parks and nature conservation areas in the state forest received 1.45 million visits in 2009. RMK’s 23 information desks are located across Estonia, mostly at the centers of RMK recreation areas or conservation areas.
RMK has selected, planned and established 13 recreation areas across Estonia; in addition to these, RMK is involved in visitor administration in five national parks and all conservation protected areas. In total, 13 recreation areas, 1,735 km of hiking trails, 178 outdoor chimney fireplaces, 41 camping areas, 24 forest huts, 15 forest houses, and 700 other stand-alone features have been set up for visitors in the state forest and conservation areas.
RMK also provides nature education activities at 18 nature centers and 4 nature houses across Estonia; in addition, interesting and educational experiences may be had at the Sagadi Nature School and Elistvere Animal Park.
The forest manager is a profit-making state agency established under the Forestry Act, aimed at the sustainable and efficient management of the state forest. RMK grows reforestation materials, organizes forestry work and is engaged in the sale of forests and timber and the upkeep of wild animals. In addition, RMK provides opportunities for hiking in nature and resting in the forest at recreation areas in five Estonian national parks and about 40 other protected areas, and shapes awareness of nature. RMK manages 38 percent of Estonia’s forests.