The sea is very important for the City of Helsinki in terms of wellbeing and as an attraction. It is so important that a clear strategy, goals and steps have been created for the development of maritime Helsinki. Minttu Perttula, Project Manager of the Helsinki Maritime Strategy, coordinates the implementation of the strategy and works as an intermediary between various bodies.
One of the most important new island destinations is Vallisaari, which was opened to the public in 2016.
“The archipelago is considered as one entity, which is made up of islands with different profiles. So, visitors will be able to decide what they want to do and pick the island accordingly. Vallisaari is our flagship, an attractive destination for the biennial, tourism and nature,” Perttula says. “Military islands are fascinating targets for development. Humans have always been present on these islands, but Vallisaari was closed to the public for centuries. It was opened to the public once the Finnish Defence Forces left the island and it has been a popular recreational destination ever since.”
The Helsinki Biennial is a significant event for the future of Vallisaari. The Maritime Strategy acknowledges that the Helsinki Biennial is not only a unique cultural event but also an open-air activity event for families.
“When the Defence Forces went, they left a void on Vallisaari, and the island’s identity needs strengthening. Introducing culture to the island is a wonderful idea. We are strengthening the maritime characteristics of Helsinki, expanding the maritime territory available to city dwellers, and introducing art experiences into nature.”
Vallisaari is a place that makes an impression and evokes emotions. Perttula says that some city dwellers have expressed concerns about the new plans for Vallisaari and the Helsinki Biennial.
“It’s wonderful that people have an emotional attachment to the island and that they want to protect it. That’s how it should be. Vallisaari and the other islands in Helsinki’s archipelago are so unique that their future has to be planned carefully with regard to the environment.”
Vallisaari’s development and the Helsinki Biennial are being planned in close collaboration with Metsähallitus, the governing body for Finnish National Parks, including Vallisaari.
New islands will open this summer
More beautiful islands in Helsinki’s unique archipelago will open to the public. While some islands will have to be completely protected, recreation and protection can often go hand in hand.
“The recreational use of Vasikkasaari and Vartiosaari will be improved. Vartiosaari will be developed in cooperation with its residents, and a summer theatre for children will open in Vasikkasaari this summer as there is already theatre stage from the 1990s in the middle of the island,” Perttula says.
You don’t always have to go to an island to experience the sea: there are 130 kilometres of coastal routes for public use in Helsinki.
Written by: Katja Viitalähde-Annala
Read more about Vallisaari’s services and ferry traffic here.
Read more about seaside Helsinki here.