Regional Forestry Office presents figures More people are flocking to the Bonn forests

Röttgen · Since the beginning of the corona crisis, the number of visitors to the forests in Bonn and the region has more than doubled. Now the Regional Forestry Office is asking visitors to avoid leaving garbage behind and show consideration for others.

 Forestry experts: Uwe Schölmerich (l), Director of the Rhine-Sieg-Erft Forestry Office, and Wolfgang Bongardt (r), head of the Kottenforst forest district.

Forestry experts: Uwe Schölmerich (l), Director of the Rhine-Sieg-Erft Forestry Office, and Wolfgang Bongardt (r), head of the Kottenforst forest district.

Foto: Rainer Schmidt

A study by the European Forest Institute Bonn (EFI) shows that there are more than twice as many visitors in the forests of Bonn and the region since the beginning of the corona-related contact restrictions - and the gradual easing of them. "Under Covid-19, visitor numbers have experienced an unprecedented boom. The Kottenforst was already a popular forest area before, over the year we counted an average of 290 visitors a day. But in March and April of 2020, the number increased by a factor of 2.4," says researcher Jakob Derks from the EFI.

Previously, the counting station had registered clear peaks in the mornings and evenings. Researchers attributed this to commuters on bicycles. But during the corona crisis, forest visits peaked in the afternoons. For many residents in the area during the time of corona restrictions - it was out of the apartment and into the forests near the city. Not only foresters such as Wolfgang Bongardt, head of the Kottenforst forest district, but also forest visitors are probably amazed at the many people who have come to the forest in recent weeks to walk, cycle, skate or ride. Many young people and families with children complement the otherwise predominant number of joggers and dog owners.

Study to look at the needs of people during their forest visit

The EFI examined the number of visitors in tandem with the European "LIFE+ Nature Conservation Project 'Villewälder - Wald und Wasserwelten'", a joint project of the Regional Forestry Office Rhine-Sieg-Erft and the Biological Station Bonn/Rhine-Erft. The aim of the study, which also includes some 300 interviews, was to gain insights into the needs of people during their forest visits.

In order to record the number of visitors over the course of the year, including the time of day and day of the week, project team members set up an automatic counting station at a central point in the trail network of the Kottenforst in March last year. Actually, the survey should have been completed by the end of February. But then came corona: the data already obtained can now be compared with current data. Georg Winkel, head of the Bonn branch of the EFI, believes this is important. "These data underline the importance of forests close to cities for the well-being of people. This has not been known to us only known since corona.”

For many people, forests are a natural recreational area

In other forests, too, such as the Eifel National Park and the Rhineland Nature Park, there are significantly more visitors. This observation shows the increased importance of the forest as a natural recreational area during the corona crisis. But in the Kottenforst there are also these challenges: Limiting bark beetle damage, timber removal, new planting, hunting and road maintenance.

Uwe Schölmerich, head of the Rhine-Sieg-Erft Regional Forestry Office has one request: "Show prudence. Respect forestry work, take your trash with you and show consideration for others." His goal is to make the forest more resistant to climate change - despite corona, bark beetles and drought.

(Orig. text: Rainer Schmidt / Translation: Carol Kloeppel)

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