Forest Workstations in Lahti Fostering Connection to Nature
The City of Lahti has set up Viita workstations in the local forest to enhance the well-being and nature connectedness of the city’s residents.
Wheen working in her previous job at the Natural Resources Institute Finland, forest specialist Jenni Simkin got asked for tips on places to go to enjoy nature. Now, working as a specialist in environmental development services in Lahti, she has a clear answer to the question: local nature.
“In Lahti, people live close to nature. Almost everyone in Lahti has a green space 300 metres from their home,” Simkin notes. She says that many people go to popular hiking destinations, even though there is a gem of a place just around the corner.
“Lahti encourages its residents to enjoy the calming effect of nature, even during a remote working day, by providing forest workstations in the surrounding nature. This is our way of reminding Lahti residents of the city’s versatile nature, including forests, parks and the shores of Lake Vesijärvi.
Last autumn, five remote workstations manufactured by Upwood design were set up in the city as part of the European Green Capital year. They were so popular that two more Viita workstations were built this year.
Importance of Nature Highlighted in City Life
Jenni Simkin is closely connected to nature.
“I grew up in the city, and I describe myself as an urban person. For me, however, urbanity includes urban nature, because we need nature to get by, even in the city.”
Nature connectedness has been a guiding force in Simkin’s career: she started as a climate change researcher and is now, alongside work, writing her doctoral thesis on ecology and environmental psychology at the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry at the University of Helsinki.
She explains that the forest workstations in Lahti are a part of a very large project in which the city aims to strongly connect nature with well-being.
“The impact of nature on mental health has been proven in numerous studies. Spending time in green spaces recharges one’s batteries, and especially for those who suffer from stress, the forest has a revitalising and relaxing effect.
“Nature affects people in many ways. It gets people moving and provides opportunities to interact socially and experience moments together.” Nature also exposes us to health-boosting microbes. And there is still much more to explore.”
Versatile Nature Lahti’s Strongest Asset
“In order for a nature site to function in a way that promotes health and well-being, it must be sufficiently extensive, diverse and peaceful. Lahti offers all of this, and that is the city’s greatest asset,” Simkin says.
The City of Lahti is a part of the GoGreenRoutes project funded by EU Horizon 2020, and aims to develop nature-based solutions that enhance health and well-being. One of the solutions is Kintterö Health Forest, which will be set up next to Päijät-Häme Central Hospital by Simkin as the project manager and a group of experts supporting her.
Last year, a 10-year Nature Step to Health programme was launched to bring together the health and environmental objectives of the Päijät-Häme region. Lahti is implementing the programme together with Päijät-Sote and Lahti University Campus. In Finland, it is quite rare to have such a long-lasting programme of this scale that combines environmental and health objectives.
Positive Relationship with Nature Promotes Sustainability
“When we experience nature, we begin to respect it, and a need to protect it arises. Respect for the environment increases our understanding of natural resources and choices that support a sustainable lifestyle,” Simkin contemplates.