A ‘walking’ forest of 1,000 trees transforms the Dutch city | trees and forests

It’s less than marathon and more than amble. But then the “mobile forest” of 1,000 trees will not move quickly. Since May, volunteers have been transporting the original planted trees in wooden containers 3.5 kilometers across the city center of Leeuwarden in the north of the Netherlands, giving people a chance to experience an alternative, greener future.

“We are a generation that has lost almost all hope,” says Johann Lackey, a student at the University of Groningen who is helping with the project, called Bosk, which means “forest” in the local Frisian language. “This project gives me hope,” he says. “It shows us that if you are crazy enough to think outside the box, you can achieve things.”

More tree cover in urban environments means lower global temperatures – a planning feature that is becoming increasingly important in the heating world. a study Conducted in nearly 300 European cities showed that urban trees can cool the surface temperature of the Earth by up to 12°C in summer.

The brainchild of landscape architect Bruno Doedens and his longtime collaborator, the late Joop Mulder, Bosk emerged from Doedens’ 2021 article Heaven Planet, which questioned the relationship of humans to the natural world. “Right now, we as a sex act like teens who don’t want to clean their rooms,” Dodens says. “We need to grow and stop making a mess of everything. We need to take care of our surroundings.”

Pedestrians stop to admire the trees along the Tweebaksmarkt in downtown Leeuwarden
Pedestrians stop to admire the trees along the Tweebaksmarkt in downtown Leeuwarden

In addition to the wonderful landscape of the “walking” forest, Bosk . program, part of Arcadia, is a triennial art festival that includes discussions, exhibitions and performances on the topic of reconnecting with nature. “We need art and artists to help us imagine the different possibilities,” says Schord Botsma, Artistic Director of Arcadia.

The first stop on the walking route was Stationsplein, outside Leeuwarden Train Station. “The trees created such a calming effect, and people immediately felt relaxed,” says Sjokji Whitkop, general manager of a nearby hotel. Witkop was inspired to install 10 large plant pots outside the hotel. “Why didn’t we have trees there before?” Says.

Forest Walk Leeuwarden with map showing the path of trees
A “calming effect”: a walking forest provides a relaxing space in Leeuwarden. The map indicates the path the trees will take

Where the “walking” forest is stationary, seating areas are provided among the trees. Some hotels offer picnic baskets for guests so they can relax in the shade.

The thousand trees consist of 60-70 native species, including alder, ash, elm, maple, oak and willow, planted in 800 wooden containers. Each has a QR code that provides details such as species, average age and preferred soil type. A soil sensor alerts the city’s gardening team when trees need water. “These are some of the best kept trees in the world,” Dodens says.

The project received overwhelming local support, and people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds volunteered to move the trees. A local brewery has developed a special beer – BoskBier – with 10 cents from every sale being donated Boom’s planIt is a national tree planting program.

Managers of other city centers in Holland May also come to see what can be done. “Even churches want to be a part of Bosque,” Botsma says.

According to Doedens, people enjoy trees so much that they want them to survive. “We created a ‘walking’ forest and people want us to leave it where they are,” he says with a laugh.

But not everyone is thrilled. Some feel the project is a waste of time and money. Others hate the fact that they have to park elsewhere for a week, or vehicles are blocked from accessing certain places due to trees. Almar Dam, who is leading the project for the municipality of Leeuwarden, urges them to look at the bigger picture. “Usually, the streets are very noisy and you have to watch out because the drivers will kill you with their cars,” he says. “But look at the Bosk website. It is very peaceful.”

Trees outside Leeuwarden train station
Leeuwarden train station gets a green makeover

From August 14 – 100 days after their arrival – trees will be planted across the city, including in lower-income neighborhoods, where green space is scarce. Friesland aims to be The most circular area in the European Union By 2025, reduce waste, pollution and biodiversity loss. While this won’t be easy, Doedens is optimistic. “If trees can walk, we can change,” he says.

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