The Saimaa region has been granted UNESCO’s global Geopark status, the UN Cultural and Scientific Institute announced on Thursday.
The situation is a recognition that the Saimaa Geopark has met strict criteria, including the requirement that the area be inhabited by an internationally significant geological heritage.
"UNESCO’s position is a very important international recognition for the region and its actors. Geopark meets strict international criteria. We are now on an equal footing with other major nature tourism destinations in the world. The status process has been challenging and lengthy," said the chairman of Saimaa Geopark Jouni Riihelä.
We hope that the increased awareness as a result of the UNESCO status will bring more visitors to the area, Riihelä said.
UNESCO describes geoparks as areas with "areas and landscapes of international geological significance are managed through the concept of holistic protection, education and sustainable development."
UNESCO Geopark status has been granted to more than 160 geological tourist destinations around the world.
Finland is home to two other geoparks, Roku in Northern Ostrobothnia and Lauhanvuori-Hämeenkangas, which covers 10 municipalities in Southern Ostrobothnia, Satakunta and Pirkanmaa.
Previous conservation work was the key to gaining UNESCO status, organizers said. The sites included in the European Union’s Natura 2000 project and the Lake Finland Charter had a role to play.
"In the charter of Lake Finland, we promised to leave Saimaa in better condition than we found it for the next generation," Riihelä said.
Saimaa Geopark covers the eastern municipalities of Sulkava, Ruokolahti, Juva, Savitaipale, Taipalsaari, Puumala, Lappeenranta, Imatra and Mikkeli.
Source: The Nordic Page