It has been eleven years, actually. In 2005 the first EFUF in Slovenia took place in Celje, the city with long tradition of urban forests and forestry. Find out more why this year EFUF will return to Celje in this blog by Robert Hostnik, urban forest manager at the Slovenia Forest Service.
Looking back – we had a great time then. As organizers we were impressed by the response of more than 100 experts from 22 countries. They still like to share nice memories with us and rarely forget to mention the anecdote about wine and vinegar. Although not our fault, it was quite embarrassing. If you come this year, you will surely hear about “the vinegar error”. Rather than go into details, I will use it as a metaphor for a short introduction into the development of the urban forests of Celje.
From the noble wine to the sour vinegar
The social functions of the forests near the city of Celje were to a large extent recognized more than a century ago. In 1885 the municipality bought first areas of private forests on the slope above the city and equipped them with new footpaths, benches and pavilions. The forests were popular for recreation and were suitably maintained for the next eight decades.
The rapid industrialization in 1950s caused environmental problems and forest degradation. It gradually drove forest visitors away. In 1970s, when citizens could afford cars and became more mobile, they started to prefer other natural places outside the city. Regular management of the urban forests was almost abandoned.
New vineyards for the new wine
Fresh impulse for the development of the forgotten potentials of the urban forests of Celje popped up in the 1990s from local forestry experts. The results of their studies, along with the emerging conflicts between the private and public interests emphasized the need for a long-term oriented multiple use of forest management.
The City Council accepted the initiative of the Forest Service and in 1996 confirmed the proposed strategy plan for the development of the urban forests of Celje. Strategy 1996, as it was called, emphasized (1) the protection of urban forests by law, (2) improvement of the ownership structure with the redemption of private forests, (3) adapted forest management, (4) development of recreational and educational infrastructure, (5) public relations and (6) assurance of the stable financial resources.
But not just any wine
In the next decade the strategy was quite successfully implemented. The number of urban forest visitors tripled. The urban forests of Celje became a kind of a role model for other Slovenian cities. Soon the need for upgrading the existing approaches emerged. The Strategy 2006 was more focused on (1) strengthening of governance and users’ participation, (2) branding and popularization, (3) coordination of public and private interests (4) education based on forest pedagogy principles and (5) on further development of infrastructure and equipment for recreation, education and experiencing. The following years brought stronger recognition and even wider popularity of the urban forests.
Dear colleagues, we would be glad to present you with the results – successes and failures – of our urban forest management and projects in the last decade on the EFUF 2016 field excursion. Your feedback will be precious as we are preparing new Strategy 2016 – 2025. We are looking forward to welcome you and I promise that this time we’ll drink only an excellent wine.
About the author: Robert Hostnik works as a forest manager at the Slovenia Forest Sevice. His main fields of interest and expertise are related to the urban forestry, ecosystem services and nature education. For the last 25 years he has been actively involved in the urban forestry development in Slovenia.