The Finnish National Urban Park (NUP) Concept as a tool for promoting biodiversity in urban areas
The world's first national city park was founded in Sweden in 1995 mainly to protect the royal green areas and earlier hunting park from urban pressure. The Swedish case raised the debate in Finland on how to build cities in a more sustainable way, protecting nature and green spaces. As a result of the debate Finnish National Urban Park (NUP) concept was taken as part of the Land Use and Building Act, which came into force 1.1.2000. The intention of the Finnish NUP Act is stated in section 68 in chapter 9:
"A national urban park (NUP) may be established to protect and maintain the beauty of the cultural or natural landscape, biodiversity (add. 2009), historical characteristics or related values concern-ing the townscaping, social, recreational or other special values of an area in an urban environ-ment."
What is notable in Finnish legislation is that the NUP decision is always dependent on the initia-tive of the local authorities and that the NUP area is formed by the plans made by a municipality. The decision to establish a national urban park can be made by the Ministry of the Environment only at the request of the municipality. The decision will be followed by a management plan drawn up by the local authority and approved by the Ministry of the Environment. Regulations concerning the national urban park must be taken into account in planning the areas of the park and in other planning and decision-making affecting the area. The Ministry of the Environment has prepared four technical criteria that cities can use to identify a suitable area for a national urban park. Criteria for national urban parks are following: 1. Breadth of content, 2. Extent and contigu-ousness, 3. Ecology and continuity, 4. Urban centrality. The area must meet all of the above men-tioned criteria in order to obtain the status of a national urban park.
Unlike in Sweden, in Finland, no law was made for just one particular area, but the aim was to create a network of national urban parks with different roles. National urban parks are part of the Finnish biodiversity strategy. In each of the national parks, there are historic buildings and blocks, parks, recreational areas and urban nature. However in most national urban parks natural heritage forms the biggest part of the area. In all NUPs there are one or more protected areas, Natura 2000 –sites, old growth forests – even sea, lake and river ecosystems from the bottom to the archipelagos. According to the criteria of extend and contiguousness/ecology and continuity many national ur-ban parks are connected to national parks or protected land- or seascapes.
Today, the network of NUPs includes areas from nine cities. The biggest NUP site is under preparation in City of Kokkola on the Western uplift cost of Finland. Helsinki, the capital of Finland has also started started a preliminary study of the national urban park.