Heroes’ forest – honouring those who keep us safe during the pandemic

Belgian Flanders is a European region notorious for its lack of green cover: roughly 23 percent of the country is covered in forest and less than 11 of Flanders, the country´s most densely populated region, is forested. During the COVID-19 pandemic, green spaces and forests all over the world have become tremendously popular for citizens looking for meaningful ways to fill their days and stay healthy.

The Flemish government has encouraged people´s outdoor activities, understanding that staying cooped up inside can become yet another health risk. However, some domains have had to close their doors as masses of people have flocked to the same scarce green spaces risking to spread the virus further.


The Flemish nature organizations that for years have worked on raising awareness on the need for protecting nature in Flanders, have finally gained a stronger voice during this pandemic. Now more than ever we need to green our cities and increase the number and acreage of accessible forests in general. All signs point to this not being our last pandemic.


While most of us spend our days at home, countless people are busy making sure we stay safe, fed and connected day and night. These are people in the health care sector and in the grocery stores; school teachers and kindergarten teachers; the post office workers and deliverers, and the police and fire department and anyone else who is staying out so we can stay in. These are also people who sew protective masks for the hospitals and elderly homes, people who do groceries for a neighbour and who lend a listening ear to those who are having a difficult time during this lockdown.


To honour these “Corona heroes”, BOS+, a forest organization from Belgian Flanders and one of the CLEARING HOUSE project partners, has joined up with Flemish agencies and initiatives to honour these heroes for their efforts. Together they have set up an initiative for people to donate a tree which they designate to a person of their choice, a Corona hero. The aim is to create an entire forest full of trees honouring the Corona heroes – the Heroes´ forest.

Planting the trees of the Heroes’ forest (photos provided by BOS+)

The first Heroes´ forest will become part of an existing Wullebos forest in Moerbeke, East-Flanders, and will be accessible throughout the year. The addition of Heroes´ forest will restore the old forest belt in the north of East-Flanders and boost the biodiversity of the area. The name Wullebos is derived from the dialect word Wulle, meaning long-eared owl, an uncommon owl that lives in the Wullebos and will therefore see its habitat expand thanks to the Heroes´ forest.  And as the heroes are spread out across the region, BOS+ and partners hope to realize one such forest in each of the 5 provinces.

The initiative of Heroes´ forest is meant to be a permanent sign of gratitude for the people in the frontlines for their efforts. It will also be a permanent resource for anyone needing a moment in the forest. Finally, the Heroes´ forests is a way of expressing gratitude to nature for taking care of us. With nature´s support, we all have more hope for the future.

Author: Katriina Kilpi, BOS+

BOS+ is a Flemish nature organization working to increase quality forests in Flanders and in the tropical South and is a CLEARING HOUSE partner.

Heroes’ Forest partners:

The other partners of the Heldenbos (Heroes’ forest) initiative have roles in planting the forest and running the campaign:
Citizen´s initiative Bedankt Merci,
Communications agency Bigtrees,
Eser experience company Statik,
PR company Bepublic  &
Media-planning company IPG Mediabrands 

Interested in contributing?

As part of the CLEARING HOUSE project, we want to collect in this blog different stories on urban forests and green spaces in COVID-19 times. How are citizens’ attitudes vis-a-vis green spaces and urban forestry changing during these challenging times? What is the benefit of urban forests and green spaces in our cities during the pandemic? What role will they play in the aftermath? And will people’s behaviour change in the long run?

Please fill out the survey about your personal relation with urban forests and green spaces before, during, and after the crisis here.

Please contact us in case you want to contribute and share your thoughts (ndaschio@vub.be), this can be an opinion piece, an emblematic picture and its description, a short story, or the (preliminary) results of research you are conducting, e.g. results of a survey, expert interviews, media analysis…

A message about COVID-19 and the EU:
The European Union and its partners launched a coronavirus global response effort on 4 May. The aim of the conference is to raise €7.5bn to develop diagnostics, treatments and vaccines and deploy them to every corner of the world at an affordable price. Find out more here: https://ec.europa.eu/info/research-and-innovation/research-area/health-research-and-innovation/coronavirus-research-and-innovation_en