Some notes from the Koli seminars 20.12.2017 & 25.1.2018
Koli is one of the most iconic tourist sites in Finland. Everybody knows the national landscape from the top of the Ukko-Koli, the view that has made its way to the self-understanding of the Finnish identity since the end of the 19th century.
Besides the view, Koli is a national park with unique nature and cultural history, a popular ski resort and home for approximately 250 people.
With major future schemes, Koli might be all that and much more. The question is how we change our environment and what we perceive through that change? According to the vast plans for Koli and areas nearby, the amount of tourist will reach over million in a year (five to ten times more than today) , new tourism centers, housing areas, services and cottages has been built, after a couple of decades. Koli is changing.
The main idea for the future is Koli Cultura - a centre for nature tourism and culture. Koli Cultura's motto is "Karelianism of Sustainable Development." This refers to the respect for nature and values cultural traditions while considering mankind's future through the principles of sustainable development (http://www.kolicultura.fi/pages/en/sustainability). This is a very ambitious project.
Actors dealing with these plans are very diverse group. Metsähallitus (Finnish forest administration) takes care of the national park. Important areal enterprise North Karelia S-group runs the Koli-hotel and ski slopes, several small entrepreneurs have their own ideas, local societies of different kind are important actors and municipalities of Lieksa and Juuka are presenting the local administration.
Municipalities and entrepreneurs are exited with these plans and opportunities. Lieksa and Juuka are struggling with the loss of population and workplaces. Koli is a one chance to turn the wheel. Metsähallitus is trying to find out the way to keep possible changes suitable for the national park. Locals appreciate the national park, but there are also many criticizing the limits park means for the land use. This situation has been more or less current since the founding of the park 1991.
Change of the governmental structure in Finland is about to go action from the beginnings of the 2019 and 2020. This change means that municipalities have less to do with healthcare and social matters, but more resources for well-being and vitality, including developing tourism. In North Karelia and Koli this means that the main task for the future is to have more tourists to North Karelia and Koli. The municipalities and areal organization of tourism, Karelia Expert, are investing more for marketing and produtization. They are also chancing their organizations more effective and suitable for present-day needs.
How does this future image fit with the historical image of Koli? With the plan of Koli Cultura and principles of sustainability, the aim is to make the wholeness work, but I did not notice a real conversation concerning the limits of acceptable change (LAC). Metsähallitus is using this concept to follow and evaluate the development of the tourist sites. Even though the famous view from the top of Koli would not change much, the wholeness, which that image is presenting, will face major changes through wanted development. Discussion concerning the acceptable limits of change can be left in the sidelines because of the passionate need for economic benefits, or because this viewpoint is too abstract to take concern at this point of the discussion. Examples from other popular tourist’s sites with great increase of tourism show that in some point, it will occur.
In the seminar held in December, people were trying to reach the “Spirit of Koli”. One viewpoint of that overall idea of the area and future of it was defined to as field of open discussion for all parties involved. Concerning the contradictory history of the land use and decision making in Koli, that seems a very justifiable guideline.