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Children's Therapeutic Forest in the Lahnstein Health Resort and Healing Forest
By Astrid Haderlein (Municipality of Lahnstein)
Since 2016, the city of Lahnstein (approx. 19,000 inhabitants, located south of Koblenz on the Rhine and Lahn rivers), as one of the largest municipal forest owners in Rhineland-Palatinate, has been pursuing the project of a health resort including a so-called healing forest according to internationally recognised medical-therapeutic criteria. Last year in September, a major and very special milestone was achieved: the Children's Therapeutic Forest as part of the Lahnstein Health Resort and Healing Forest was inaugurated and officially opened.
The city of Lahnstein was thus one of the first cities in Germany and Europe to respond to the awareness that forests have considerable potential for public health promotion and disease prevention - for all age groups. "The forest plays an important role as a recreational and retreat space, which has become even more evident since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is indispensable for people's well-being," said State Secretary Dr Ulrich Kleemann. "I congratulate the city of Lahnstein in particular on its far-sighted idea, which already arose in 2016, and its successful application. In a committed process, the parties involved have, with perseverance and ambition, set up a future-oriented project with the support of the state forestry authorities."
Lahnstein thus responds to the special needs of children by dedicating a separate area to them: The Children's Healing Forest is located in an approximately eight-hectare area of forest in the Lahnstein district on the heights. It consists of old and medium-aged hardwood stands with predominantly red beech, but also small areas of old sessile oak as well as hornbeam, cherry, sycamore and lime. There are also medium-aged Douglas firs, which are ideally suited as climbing trees for therapy purposes.
The focus of the Children's Healing Forest is the recovery of children's health. Indications are, for example, obesity, chronic pain, susceptibility to infections, sleep disorders as well as concentration and attention disorders. In addition, the Children's Healing Forest is also focused on preventive health care and is therefore open to all families as well as schools, day-care centres and other children and youth groups.
In its various functional areas and the 21 stations, children are supported in their health development by playfully completing tasks on a course: Searching, running, climbing, balancing, throwing, conscious breathing, listening, smelling, feeling, touching and tasting address all the senses. The free and mindful physical activity in the forest promotes concentration and attention, creativity, motor and coordination skills as well as mental abilities. Emphasis is also placed on interaction in the group and communication without language. However, it is also always possible to experience tranquillity and relaxation.
Particularly children with illnesses should be able to recover more quickly and stay healthy in a child-friendly way.
A mascot, the forest elf Till, accompanies the children and provides help wherever necessary: he shows the children what to do at the various task stations. In this way, the children can try things out for themselves right away and hardly need any or no more guidance from "grown-ups", which also strengthens their self-confidence.
During the first weeks of operation, the new attraction has been very well received. At weekends, numerous families frolic around in the extensive woodland. During the week, the visitors are mostly from schools, day-care centres or groups such as holiday children from the youth cultural centre or a communion group. Older children and young people are also attracted, not least by stations such as archery and the climbing trees. However, these can only be used with a trainer.
Background information on the Lahnstein health resort and healing forest project
In March 2020, the state of Rhineland-Palatinate decided to modify Article 20 of the State Forest Act so that forests can be designated as health resort and healing forests in the future at the request of forest owners.
The legal ordinance came into force at the beginning of May last year.
- A spa forest is characterised by certain features that have a broad health-promoting effect on the visitor.
- The healing forest is visited by people who are ill and their therapists. It is suitable for positively influencing the course of illnesses and the extent of disability caused by certain diseases. Areas of application are, for example, psychosomatic and mental illnesses, lung diseases or cardiovascular diseases.
However, Lahnstein has received a LEADER funding notification of 250,000 euros for the health resort and healing forest project. "The development of the health resort and healing forest in Lahnstein combines health economy and nature as well as urban development and social aspects. The project thus demonstrates the new links and innovative approaches that are possible through LEADER," said Andy Becht, State Secretary in the Ministry of Economics, Transport, Agriculture and Viniculture of Rhineland-Palatinate, referring to the European LEADER approach in the rural regions of Rhineland-Palatinate.
When Mayor Peter Labonte commented the project, he said that forests are the most natural sanatorium and the healthiest and greenest pharmacy of all, offering a recreational and health function while providing all these services free of charge.
District Administrator Frank Puchtler praised the innovative idea of the Lahnstein health resort and healing forest. It is a good example of how to make Lahnstein, the Rhine-Lahn district and the entire region more sustainable. In addition, the health resort and healing forest will be linked to the National Horticultural Show BUGA 2029.
This project provides the city with a new development perspective for the district of Lahnstein auf der Höhe. For citizens and visitors from the surrounding towns, this area will be created as a local recreation area with new use options. By focussing on the indication-related healing forest, the city expects an increase in health tourism, which will also attract people from other regions.
The project was developed in partnership between the city administration, the forestry office and medical institutions (Klinik auf der Lahnhöhe, GGB, BWZK, Malbergklinik, ARZ) from the very beginning. In this way, the compatibility of nature conservation (the municipal forest is part of the "Nassau" nature park), forestry, hunting, tourism and the practice of medical activities was and still will be ensured.
The team of forestry, medicine, city administration and forest educators developed various paths and clusters in the area of the health resort and healing forest. For the mentally ill, people with cardiovascular problems or a disease of the musculoskeletal system. Lung patients can also be treated in Lahnstein. Therapy and relaxation paths, therapy equipment, benches and loungers, signage as well as an information station are planned. Some offers will be provided as barrier-free areas.
And thus a psychotherapy path, a lung cluster, an orthopaedics / geriatrics area with strength-building equipment and a falls course, a cardiovascular path as well as a general relaxation and mindfulness path are created. The various paths are signposted so that visitors can use them without the help of a therapist. A homepage and GPS-supported path guidance complete the offer.
In order to enable people from all social classes to access the centre, no entrance fee is charged. Only guided preventive or curative offers are subject to a fee.
The health resort and healing forest for adults is still under construction. Completion is expected in 2023; individual areas may already be used before that time.