Heidelberg’s city forest achieves certification as a ‘recreational forest’
First complete forest in Germany to receive recognition for its recreational offering
Heidelberg is the first city in Germany to have its entire city forest certified by PEFC as a ‘recreational forest’ in recognition of the high quality of its recreational offering. As long ago as 2001 the city was awarded the internationally-recognized PEFC (‘Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Systems’) quality mark for its sustainable forestry. Now, since the start of 2015, a new kind of voluntary certification has been available for forest owners in Germany: the ‘PEFC-certified recreational forest’. Augsburg was the first German city to obtain the new seal, in 2015, but only for the parts of its forest closest to the city. Heidelberg is the first city to have achieved ‘recreational forest’ certification for its entire forest.
The certificate commits Heidelberg to continuing to maintain and enhance the forest’s value as a recreation area. This means not just managing the trees and forest floor, but also educating and informing visitors and preventing conflicts between the forest’s different user groups.
On July 6, 2015, a ceremony was held in the city forest above Heidelberg Castle, at which the city’s Mayor, Dr. Eckart Würzner, was presented with the certificate by Wilfried Stech, director of the certification body HW-Zert GmbH, in the presence of Prof. Ulrich Schraml, the head of PEFC Germany.
Prof. Schraml said: “We warmly congratulate the City of Heidelberg on this certificate for its ‘recreational forest’ concept. It is testament to the forest wardens’ huge dedication in maintaining and developing the forest as a recreational space. It sends out a compelling message about the city’s success in meeting the diverse needs of visitors to the forest.”
Mayor Dr. Eckart Würzner stressed: “In the city forest Heidelberg has a stunning recreational area right on its doorstep that is a wonderful place to relax. The forest reflects both the city’s responsible approach to the environment, and its dedication to creating attractive recreational spaces for its residents. The forest in and around Heidelberg is the largest continuous stretch of non-intensively used land in the region. The City of Heidelberg is well aware of its responsibility towards future generations. We care for and manage the forest with the utmost care and respect – this ‘recreational forest’ certificate for the whole of our city forest is a wonderful recognition of our efforts in this area.”
High standards for recreational forests
PEFC sets high standards for recreational forests. Quality criteria include: forest maintenance; ecosystems; safeguarding and caring for biotopes; biodiversity; footpaths; signposting; safety; rest areas; accessibility; public relations; and educational offerings. The particular strengths of Heidelberg city forest are its forest ecosystems, its extensive network of paths, educational and nature trails, its hiking and cycling routes, its barbecue and rest areas, and its playgrounds. It is an attractive destination for visitors young and old, including sports enthusiasts and nature lovers. In collaboration with partners within the city authorities and beyond, the city continues to develop new sporting, cultural and educational offerings for the forest.
The main focal points within the city forest are the Pferchel ‘forest experience’ area, and the hills Heiligenberg and Königstuhl. With its ‘children’s woodland zone’ (Waldkindergelände), covered barbecue area and forest playground, ‘Pferchel’ is an ideal place for holding club and other gatherings and for educational activities to teach members of the public about the forest. The Heiligenberg hill is soaked in history – there visitors will find themselves hot on the trail of Celts, Romans, Merovingians and monks… and the Nazis. The Königstuhl is great for culture, adventure, education and relaxation, with a falconry center, the Königstuhl observatory, a forest adventure trail and educational trail, and the fairytale-inspired children’s theme park ‘Märchenparadies’ all within easy reach of Heidelberg Castle. Sports enthusiasts can burn off energy on the Nordic walking trail or the freeride mountain bike training route, while nature lovers are in for a treat with the two rhododendron gardens and the arboretums with their exotic tree species.
Responsible approach to people and nature
For many years, the City of Heidelberg has been engaged in exemplary management of its city forest according to environmental, social and economic criteria. These sustainable forestry activities have earned it not only the PEFC certificate, but also the ‘Forest Stewardship Council’ (FSC) mark. Both of these certificates testify to Heidelberg’s impressive social and environmental responsibility credentials.
PEFC is the world’s largest institution offering an independent certification system to promote sustainable forest management. The PEFC seal on timber and timber products is proof that they come from environmentally, economically and socially responsible forestry. The German branch of PEFC – PEFC Deutschland e. V. – was founded in 1999 and is responsible for developing certification standards and procedures, conducting PR work, and issuing the rights to the PEFC logo in Germany. PEFC is the most prevalent forest certification system in Germany: around two thirds – or 7.3 million hectares – of German forests are PEFC-certified.