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Knokke-Heist goes green with new 27-hectare urban forest

On Monday 25 January 2021, the first spade was driven into the field west of the Duinenwater Lake in Knokke-Heist for the planting of a completely new urban edge forest. This additional green lung, located between Duinenwater and Duinbergen, will consist of a genuine ecological nature forest in combination with a play forest. The area is intersected by watercourses and footpaths, cycle paths and bridleways. For the purchase of this land, the municipality has provided €3 million. For the planting of 50,000 trees, 2 million euros have been provisionally allocated in the long-term plan. The urban edge forest is a project of the Knokke-Heist town council in close cooperation with the design and consultancy firm Arcadis, the architectural firm Generiek and Bos+.

urban forest panorama

Unique for Flanders 

Kris Demeyere, Alderman for Urban Development, Agriculture and Fisheries, Environment, Local Economy and Water Management: "The project we are realising today, the creation of 27 hectares of new forest, is a first in the history of Knokke-Heist in terms of size and concept and, as far as we know, probably unique in Flanders. Only 2 hectares are compensation trees that were cleared for the construction of the new Ravelingen in the Koudekerkelaan and between the Elizabetlaan and Knokkestraat as part of the realisation of the new Heist thoroughfare. The remaining 25 hectares of fields and meadows are thus being deliberately transformed into a forest by the Knokke-Heist town council in order to extend our seaside resort with a new green lung".

planting trees urban edge forest

First phase: planting 12 400 trees on 4.5 hectares 

The first realisation of this project is the planting of 4.5 hectares of polder forest. Between 25 January and 1 March 2021 12,400 trees are planted to form a nascent forest. Young planting stock was chosen (80 to 120 cm high) in a dense planting pattern (1.5 m between each tree). Young planting stock takes root better and can adapt to the new conditions better than older planting stock. It can therefore withstand dry summers better. The dense planting creates competition between the trees, so that they quickly grow taller and a forest feel is created more quickly.

planting trees urban edge forest

High biodiversity 

Areas are planned with tree species that allow a lot of light through and others that cast more shade. In the first phase, these are tree species such as the European elm, European elder, hornbeam, hornbeam, rowan, poplar, Silver birch, White willow, sweet chestnut, Small-leaved lime, Pedunculate oak and Sycamore maple. This great variety ensures a variety of vegetation on the ground and thus a great biodiversity. Along the existing paths, a continuous planting of fast-growing species has been chosen. In this way, a forest feel is quickly created and the trees in the core of the planting are protected from wind. In the cores, not all planting areas are planted, leaving room for natural rejuvenation of trees and shrubs.

planting trees urban edge forest

Adventure forest for young people 

In the following phases, this ecologically valuable polder forest will not only be expanded systematically, but a separate play forest will also be created especially for our young people, with challenging climbing equipment, an adventurous balancing course, forest rooms with brambles, an exciting labyrinth among berry bushes and an open playing field with willow huts for blissful relaxation. The forest is intersected by separate cycling, walking and riding paths along soothing watercourses and forest ponds.

Planting realised by spring 2022 

If everything goes according to plan, the planting and construction of these 27 hectares of forest should be completed by spring 2022. To enjoy a real forest, it will take another 20 to 30 years before all the trees are fully grown. In time, the new forest will also be flanked by an eco-golf with 3 x 7 holes, ponds and dunes.

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