Pelasta Vartiosaari! - Save Vartiosaari!
Dear Mrs. Selin,
please allow me to express myself regarding the ongoing planning process that concerns the area of Vartiosaari in eastern Helsinki. I write you in English in the hope that I can get my point across more clearly than in my broken Finnish.
Of German origins, I now live in Scotland, after 15 years of study, work and life in Helsinki. As member of the club Aaltoliike ry, which is renting a kesämökki on Vartiosaari, I have visited this extraordinary place countless times, and in fact I am there now as I write. I have been a co-organizer of art exhibitions, concerts, latotanssit, meetings with work colleagues, university student excursions and guided tours on this island. I have also co-designed the nature path of Vartiosaari, which verifiably attracts several thousand visitors each year and has won, in 2005, the first prize in a public nationwide competition for the best nature path of Finland - not so much thanks to my input I would argue, but due to the extraordinary beauty and diversity of Vartiosari's natural and cultural environment itself.
You can taker the tour yourself, here:
Aaltoliike ry. and I personally have hosted at least several hundred, perhaps thousand visitors there over the years, and in all seasons including mid-winter. Many of these visitors were of foreign origins and only in Helsinki for a brief period, e.g. to attend an academic conference or art project they were involved in. For such people, Vartiosaari usually provided the only glimpse of another aspect of Finnish nature, culture and history than the modern urban centre of the city. The guest book of our kesämökki is full of expressions of amazement and praise for the uniqueness of this island, in such close proximity to the centre of a European capital. I know for a fact that other clubs and owners of private houses on the island have the same experience.
I will quote the entry of one recent guest, Professor Mahmood Mamdani from Columbia University, USA and Makerere University, Kampala. Prof. Mamdani was listed as one of the “Top 20 Public Intellectuals” globally by Foreign Policy (US) and Prospect (UK) magazine in 2008. After attending an academic conference in Turku in October 2010, he had 24 hours to spare before his departure, and chose a guided walk, sauna and bed on Vartiosaari over several invitations to expensive downtown hotels and restaurants:
"Great joy and huge surprises to have a day learning how native Finns have lived and some still do - A rare privilege that I could not have imagined before I got here - Mahmood".
In conclusion, I would like to ask you to consider and share my opinion with the planning committee: I believe that Vartiosaari is a hidden but far from unknown treasure within Helsinki and the Uusimaa Region. It is of great value not only to many citizens of Helsinki, but to visitors from around the world. To alter the current state of this island in any massive way would constitute an immense loss of value that cannot be measured. I suggest that Vartiosaari should be carefully preserved in its current state and its recreational potential should be further developed. The private persons and associations currently using and visiting Vartiosaari regularly - and which are represented by Vartiosaari-seura ry. - must be heard and involved in this planning process at all stages.
Thank you for your patience. I have other things to do than writing long mails like this, but in this case it seems more than worthwhile, in fact absolutely necessary to me.
With best regards,
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