Full of energy – this is how the 22nd European Forum on Urban Forestry started. The city of Cologne welcomed around 150 participates from all over Europe at the German Sport University Cologne. Policy planners, decision-makers, practitioners, researchers and representatives from different stakeholder groups of urban forest management came together to exchange views and to share knowledge. Offering a strong urban greening heritage, Cologne is the perfect host for this year´s European Forum on Urban Forestry, which was announced as an official side event of the EU Green Week.
Opening the conference, the participants were welcomed by the European Forest Institute together with Renate Späth, Ministry for Environment, Agriculture, Nature and Consumer Protection of the Federate State of North Rhine-Westphalia. Renate Späth emphasized that sharing knowledge between citizens and experts and seeking collective solutions is essential when co-creating inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable forests. Nerys Jones, as a part of the International Steering Group EFUF, described the essence of the forum as a meeting place for practitioners and researchers in urban forestry. The forum serves as a fruitful base for sharing ideas and debating issues for all interest groups involved.
Also, the mayor of Cologne, Henriette Reker and Hubert Kaiser from the Ministry for Environment, Agriculture, Nature and Consumer Protection of the Federate State of North Rhine-Westphalia warmly welcomed all participants to the city of Cologne, highlighting the recreational and protection role of urban forests on small spaces as well as their diverse range of ecosystem services. Urban forests are integral and indispensable components of the green infrastructure of a city, appreciated as green oases by its citizens. How do we want to live in future cities? This multifaceted topic and the energetic relationships between forests and human beings were further discussed and presented by Prof. Strüder, Rector of the German Sport University Cologne.
After receiving interesting insights about the historical development of the Green Belt of Cologne by Dr. Bauer, Deputy Head of the Office for Landscape Management and Green Areas of the City of Cologne, the connection between urban outdoor recreation with health benefits on a city scale level were highlight by Prof. Arnberger from the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Austria. Prof. Gustavsson from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences introduced the concept of landscape and forest laboratories. Finally, the colleagues from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Michela Conigliaro and Prof. Salbitano from the University of Florence, shared outcomes and provided a follow-up to the 1st World Forum un Urban Forestry, which took place in Mantova, Italy in November 2018.
To put these insights into practice, the afternoon program provided several excursions by bike or on foot through the Outer Cologne Green Belt. Created in the 1920s, the Green Belts are located on the premises of former fortresses. Walking through the Outer Green Belt, one comes across many walking trails, bicycle paths, outdoor sports areas and waterbodies, which provide the possibility for citizens to come to this green urban area to enhance and nurture body and mind, practicing many outdoor activities. See here for more information about the Outer Green Belt of Cologne.
To learn and discuss about the multifaceted use of urban forests, such as recreational activities, mental restoration and a space of social get-together, we are looking forward to further focus on different urban forest approaches. On our agenda, we will be exploring and discussing urban forests from a health and spiritual perspective, as well as the learning and the co-designed forest. Learn more about our focus here. Stay tuned for more via Twitter #EFUF2019.
Photo Credits: Vera Knill