Published 11.11.2019

The new practices of Metsähallitus help the development of Ruunaa Hiking Area

The master plan for the land use and nature tourism of Ruunaa Hiking Area, commissioned by Metsähallitus, is now complete. The aim of the plan was to investigate the current state of the hiking area and to find out what could be improved.

In the recent years, the number of visitors at Ruunaa Hiking area has been lower than ten years ago. The inadequate and outdated accommodation services are the main reason why the number of visitors has not grown. Private companies have been unable to invest on the kind of facilities they would have a need for, which has caused the accommodation services to be lacking. Instead, Metsähallitus has been responsible for maintaining the current buildings in the area, with limited resources. Some companies have already established private accommodation or other services outside the actual hiking area.

The regional land use plan of North Karelia, which is currently being revised, is the starting point for developing Ruunaa Hiking Area. In the current plan, the hiking area has been marked as a recreational area. “Unfortunately, this has caused restrictions on construction, which is only allowed in Neitikoski,” says Jere Rauhala, Development Manager of Metsähallitus. In the new regional land use plan, Ruunaa will hopefully be marked with a symbol that allows the area to be further developed.

At the same time, Metsähallitus will change their operation mode to allow private companies and individuals to invest in hiking areas. “When visitors stay in the area longer, new jobs are born and it has an impact on the regional economy. At the moment, the buildings that have reached the end of their usability are the reason why the period of time visitors stay in the area is not growing,” says Rauhala.

The accommodation options at Ruunaa Hiking Area are mostly cottages for 4–6 persons. “These days, a company arriving by bus from abroad would like to have accommodation for two, which applies to an increasing number of domestic visitors as well,” says Rauhala. Under these circumstances, half of the accommodation capacity is left unused, whilst on the other hand, there is not enough accommodation.

“Our experience from Hossa is good, where a hiking area was closed down after a national park was established on the site. For the local actors, it created an opportunity to invest, which they have seized by building new, modern accommodation facilities,” tells Rauhala.

“Speaking from the perspective of land use, Ruunaa Hiking Area and its surroundings have great places to build on whilst still maintaining the essence of the hiking area,” says Rauhala.

In the new master plan, the Neitikoski area will become the service and activity centre of Ruunaa, and all building will be focused there. “Kattilakoski will become the centre for fishing where you can build, as long as the Natura areas are considered,” tells Rauhala.

Additionally, two areas outside the hiking area have been identified suitable for building. “The areas of Lake Naarajärvi and Lake Siikajärvi are suitable for accommodation purposes and different activities,” adds Rauhala.

The master plan of Ruunaa has been designed together with local actors, as is the norm with Metsähallitus. “A large group gathered together for a workshop, including authorities,” rejoices Rauhala.
“It felt like everyone was in support of improving Ruunaa, and we now share a strong will to take Ruunaa forward.”

The development of Ruunaa is important for the Municipal Manager of Lieksa, Jarkko Määttänen. “We believe that the significance of tourism can further improve in both Ruunaa and Koli, which will bring new investments and jobs to Lieksa.” “The master plan by Metsähallitus will create a base for developing the area further.”

Ruunaa is the only place in Europe where you can shoot rapids in a wooden boat. It is also an important centre of freestyle canoeing and a well-known fishing spot. Ruunaa has the right qualities to grow into an internationally attractive, all-year-round destination for top nature tourism.

Next, the City of Lieksa will prepare for the land use planning of Ruunaa. At the same time, Metsähallitus will discuss new investment opportunities with the regional actors.

For more information
Development Manager Jere Rauhala, Metsähallitus Property Development,, +358 400 825 983
Municipal ManagerPrivate companies have been unable to invest, City of Lieksa,, +358 40 104 4001