The municipal forest
The “green” growth region
Frankfurt owns one of the largest municipal woodland areas in Germany – some 6,000 hectares. The tree species can be divided into 34 per cent oak, 31 per cent beech, 29 per cent pine and 6 per cent spruce and Douglas pines; most of them are between 40 and 60 years old. The annual logging intensity corresponds to roughly half the growth and complies with the principle of sustainability, i.e. not taking out more than is growing back. The forestry practices in the municipal forest make a substantial contribution to biotope and species conservation.
In 1993, 3,797 hectares of Frankfurt’s municipal forest was declared a protected forest which enjoys the highest protection possible under Hesse’s Forestry Act. A large part of the municipal forest is a designated climate, emission and water conservation area. The entire forest is a landscape protection area. Nineteen per cent of the forest area is a protected natural habitat in accordance with the NATURA 2000 Directives.
In addition, there are 4,600 hectares of recreational woodland. A network of round 420 km of routes through the forest, including 157 km of signposted cycling and hiking tracks, are an invitation to people seeking relaxation and recreation to go walking, rambling, jogging or cycling. There are also 96 km of routes for horse riders. The municipal forest is an important recreational area in Frankfurt’s GreenBelt.
The ecosystem is put under pressure because the municipal forest is criss-crossed with roads, is located close to the airport and is popular with recreation seekers. Since the municipal forest was acquired in 1372, when it covered 1,077 hectares, around one-seventh of the area has been lost to construction, sports stadiums, airport extensions, and rail and road routes. To ensure the long-term preservation of the forest, its surface area cannot be encroached on any further and the last connected sections of the forest must not be cut across by roads.
Despite substantial efforts, damage to the forest still occurs. Air pollutants and the withdrawal of water by the city place a considerable burden on the forest. Interregional measures to reduce environmental damage and to keep the forest alive and stable thus assume greater importance.
Since 1976, PR work for Frankfurt’s municipal forest has focused on the former pheasantry near the Oberschweinstiege. In 1995 a new forestry and ecology information centre was opened on the site of the former pheasantry – the StadtWaldHaus.
The unusual building has two counterposed, planted monopitch roofs and an oak trunk topped by an observation platform extending up through the middle. It houses a woodland exhibition where visitors can take part in activities that help to develop an understanding of the life of a tree and the woodland wildlife community. The StadtWaldHaus is an important learning point in Frankfurt’s GreenBelt.