The Repovesi National Park and the World Heritage Site Verla form a unique combination to show the history of the Finnish forestry industry and nature. The World Heritage Site Verla is 30 minutes by car or a day’s kayaking time from the Repovesi National Park. There is a preserved groundwood and board mill, workers living quarters and the power stations of Verlankoski, a total of 50 buildings in about 10 hectares.
The mill produced its last pieces of cardboard in 1964, when the old workers retired together with the machines. The decision to transform the place into a museum was made in June 1969 and it opened in 1972. The Verla area was already used as a holiday and recreation place by the employees of Kymiyhtiö, so converting it into a museum gave the place more value. Now also the general public could come and see this important part of the country’s industrial history. Verla was accepted as a World Heritage Site based on this criterion: “The Verla groundwood and board mill and its associated residential area is an outstanding, remarkably well-preserved example of the small-scale rural industrial settlements associated with pulp, paper and board production that flourished in northern Europe and North America in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Only a handful of such settlements survive to the present day.” (Unesco)
The company’s forests and factories
People have lived in Repovesi for ages. First these were hunting grounds. In the 17th century the slash-and-burn method of agriculture and the burning of tar subjected the forests to forestry on a wider scale. This lasted for over 200 years. The first, small water powered mills started in the 18th century. The peak of the forestry era was from the end of the 19th century to the 1970s. The majority of the forests in Repovesi was in 1913 transferred from Rudolf Elving to the ownership of Kymiyhtiö, founded in 1904 and now known as UPM. The forest industry was growing fast in Finland and the company needed a steady source of wood material, so the forests became the company’s property. Due to the great timber rafting ways, the railway Savonrata, completed at the end of the 19th century, and a good network of forest roads built in 1960-70 the area became a highly valuable source of wood.
At the same time when the paper mills at Voikkaa, Kuusankoski and Kymi were using the wood from the Repovesi area, the groundwood and board mill at Verla got its spruce rafted from Mäntyharju. With the growing demand of timber, Verla too had purchased large forests to supply it. When Kymi Osakeyhtiö took hold of Verla in 1922, one of the main reasons was its large forest fortune.
Biodiversity and the world heritage
Under the rule of Kymiyhtiö, Repovesi and Verla were active parts in the massive production chain of wood products that brought wealth to the surrounding area. The former was responsible for the supply of wood and the latter was famous for its high-quality cardboard.
The forests of Repovesi were used intensely up until the 1970s and the scenery was typical for that type of forestry areas. The last large cuttings were in 1977. In years 1997-2001 UPM composed a strategy to protect the biodiversity of the forest nature and donated the lands to the government in 2002. At the same time UPM filed a proposal to make the area a nature conservation area. The Repovesi National Park and The Aarnikotka Forest Nature Reserve were established in 2003. The formerly industrial forests now had a new purpose as the channel between nature and man.
The Repovesi National Park and the World Heritage Site Verla form a unique combination to show the history of the Finnish forestry industry and nature. The area’s history starting with hunting, logging, timber rafting and finally large-scale conservation and protection of biodiversity create a colourful and rich environment for its guests.