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From gardens to parks – international ideals

“There are no plantings, no arboretums, no hop fields nor vegetable plots in the town” -Jacob Chydenius, 1754

Finnish garden culture is relatively young. In the early 1800s, there were no public green areas in Kokkola, except for the churchyard. Along Rantakatu, there was a row of small gardens that gave the town some sense of a park. These were privately owned kitchen gardens surrounded by lilac hedges. They were used to grow herbs and food crops, but people also grew roses and other flowering plants amongst the crops. Residents would enjoy their morning coffee in the gardens, and children would play there.

Public parks and garden culture arrived in Kokkola in the 1860s. Local garden associations and wealthy merchants helped promote the popularity of gardening. Kokkola National Urban Park contains three historical parks: Chydeniuksenpuisto (Chydenius Park), Englanninpuisto (English Park) and Länsipuisto (West Park). More recent parks include Meripuisto, Brita Marian puisto and Hollyhaka.

  • The beautiful Englanninpuisto is located along Sunti between the city centre and the sea. The shores of Sunti serve as a popular pedestrian and cycle route and link the city to the sea shore. The route offers a tranquil path through the urban park’s green spaces.

    The English Park was established in 1895 on the site of the old tar market. The port operation had to be relocated away from the centre to Halkokari due to the flammability of tar and the effects of land uplift.

    The park was named Englanninpuisto, English Park, because a gunboat of the British Navy was displayed there. The boat had been captured in the Crimean War, when the British attempted to land at Halkokari. The locals managed to thwart the attack and captured one of the gunboats. The boat is understood to be the only surviving boat of this type of the British Navy. Residents took part in the design of the park, and only native species of trees were planted. The aim was to keep the park as natural as possible.

    In 2020, a stormwater element was built in English Park. It has a bridge structure which emulates a kissing bridge that was previously on this site. Love locks can be attached to the new kissing bridge. A wooden sculpture of Kokkola’s founder, Gustav II Adolf, was installed with the stormwater element. The sculpture was created with a chainsaw by sculptor Ulla Haglund.

  • In the mid-1800s, there were some private gardens where the park stands today, but most of the area was in a natural state. At that time many wealthier people had small private gardens, which were used to grow food crops and flowers. Many gardens had gazebos and lilac trees. The Kokkola garden association, which was founded in the 1860s, turned the site of West Park into a well-kept public park.

    West Park has a stage for concerts and other events. A playground keeps younger visitors occupied. The Tyrsky (Wave) sculpture designed by Karl G. Nylund was installed in 1973, and it is dedicated to the memory of municipal doctor Einar Cederberg: “The greatness of a person is seen in the way he treats his fellow human.”

  • Chydenius Park was founded in 1860, when the Kyntzell sisters bequeathed the land to the city on the condition that a public park would be established there. Back then the park was known as the East Park. The old lindens, elms and larches date from that period. In the middle of the park, there is a sculpture by Valter Runeberg of Anders Chydenius (1729–1803), who was a well-known politician and church official. The name of the park was changed when the sculpture was installed in 1903.

    Chydenius Park is a gem in the midst of the densely built centre and one of the star attractions of Kokkola National Urban Park. The grand old trees dominate the park and provide a tranquil haven away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Beautiful flower beds invite visitors to enjoy themselves. The resident jackdaw colony gives the park its unique soundscape and local nickname Naakkapuisto – “Jackdaw Park”.

  • During the plague epidemic of 1710 and 1711, burials in churchyards were prohibited. In Kokkola, a plague cemetery was established outside the city. Katarina Cemetery is part of Kokkola National Urban Park and is located close to West Park and the old water tower.  It was founded in the 1770s close to the old plague cemetery, as the churchyard had run out of burial space and a decision was made to stop burials in the city area for sanitary reasons. Burial practices were different in those days. In winter, the bodies of the deceased were stored inside buildings at the cemetery to wait for spring burial. The existing tombs of Katarina Cemetery were built in the mid-1750s. The design of the cemetery is based on a plan drawn by Anders Chydenius in 1781. A statue designed by Veikko Leppänen was installed on the edge of the cemetery in 1958 in memory of those buried in ceded Karelia.

    Kuva Katariinan kalmiston sisäpihalta. Kuvassa kaksi valkoista rakennusta.

  • Two of the parks within Kokkola National Urban Park are located along the Strait of Sunti. One of them is Brita Maria Park in Hollihaka. Located near the city centre, the activity park offers sports and physical activities for people of all ages.

    The park has an arboretum of 90 species, an amphitheatre, a roller skating track, an electronic sports game, a barbecue spot and a climbing net. The concrete “ice cubes” were designed by the Nordic Art School. The park also has a skatepark built as part of a local sports project. Next to the skatepark is an electronic DJ deck which people can connect to from their smartphones to play their own music.

    Brita Maria Park is named after the mother of Karl Herman Renlund. The park is funded by the Brita Maria Renlund Foundation. K.H. Renlund set up the foundation in 1918 in memory of his mother. At the founder’s request, only women can serve as the foundation’s board members.

  • Located right on the seashore in Vanhasatamanlahti, Meripuisto is the most nautical of the parks within Kokkola National Urban Park. It links the centre of Kokkola to the sea through pedestrian and cycle routes that follow the shores of Sunti.

    Meripuisto serves as a hub for all the marine areas of the national urban park. M/S Jenny operates between Meripuisto, Kokkola archipelago and the lighthouse island of Tankar. Tankar is one of the most remote points of Kokkola National Urban Park. The island has a small marina for boaters.

    Playgrounds and local sports

    Meripuisto is an active outdoor space for the whole family. The park has a beach, a playground, frisbee golf baskets, a skatepark and ample space for lounging around. A local sports centre with an outdoor gym and a multiple-use artificial grass field were built in the park in 2020. There are also two padel courts.

    A recently refurbished playground and a new party venue make Meripuisto particularly inviting. The party venue has a 9-metre-long table with a barbecue, further barbecue spots and a quay. A light installation titled Galaksi adds to the atmosphere after dark. There are also restaurants in the area.

    In winter, ice conditions permitting, the bay becomes a dream destination for ice-skaters and cross-country skiers.