The hill overlooking Vuosaari has become one of the most curious recreational areas in Helsinki. Over the years, thanks to the subtle landscaping created by people and machinery, the hill has become a place where locals can climb up and pretend they are in Lapland. The peak offers splendid views over Helsinki and the brand new Vuosaari Harbour. The highest point is 60 metres and the other brows 45 metres above sea level. Birdwatchers refer to the hill as the Himalayas and come here to watch the migrating birds.

The hill comprises two areas. The former dump covers 24 hectares and was last used in 1980. This area will still have to wait years before all the gases have escaped and it can be landscaped. Pipes have been installed to accelerate the process. One day meadow flowers will grow on the former dump, such as carnations, lilies of the valley and various grasses. This natural area will need tending by humans for many years to come.

The second area is the landfill hill, where excess material has been piled up for decades. The surface of the hill originates from the construction site of Vuosaari Harbour. Earthmoving machinery was used to transport 80,000 cubic metres of earth from Käärmeniemi. Along with all the earth came the seeds that were in the ground, so the original plants, organisms and mushroom spawn continue to grow.

The landfill hill covers an area of 60 hectares and is 60 metres in height. In the past decade it has become an open natural area where domestic plants grow naturally in meadow and rocky conditions. The area is now home to 390 vascular plants and many noteworthy endangered insects.

The hills has many interesting features, including a small marshy pond, a rocky valley and “planted” stumps. There is even a field of wild strawberries. The natural plants have been gathered from the coast, and cuttings have been taken from them. The rocks come from various construction sites around Helsinki.

The design of the landfill hill is inspired by the fells of Lapland. Accordingly, low juniper bushes, heather and thyme that thrive in harsh environments have been planted. The stump of the old tree that once grew in the city centre next to Lasipalatsi was transported to the site on 2 August 2007. It now welcomes visitors to the hill, its plants and its wildlife. Other stumps have also been planted, and a fine stone wall was constructed just so that visitors could ponder why it is there!

Paths meander across the hill, and new paths are planned to serve both local and regional recreational needs. Some of the paths are lighted, and a horseback riding trail, cycling path and lighted skiing trails will also be built. Slopes for snowboarding and downhill skiing may also be developed. The driving force between this project is Jukka Toivonen, a nature gardener from Stara, the construction department of the City of Helsinki. Toivonen wanted to avoid turning the area into an ordinary park, so the terrain of the hill has been left rough and rocky. Toivonen believes that in ten years the hill will have become one of the finest recreational areas in Helsinki and that after 30 years it will be impossible to tell that the hill was manmade.

Foxes, elk and adders have already made the hill their home. Even a lynx has been spotted there! The peak affords an unspoilt view in all directions, making it perfect for observing migratory birds of prey. Numerous rare species have been spotted from the “Himalayas”, including long-legged buzzards and short-toed snake eagles. Others birds that have been spotted include goldfinches, twites and shore larks.

The hill has received several awards for promoting natural diversity. It even has its own Facebook page, and Jukka Toivonen also writes a blog dedicated to the hill.

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