Surge in forests visitors after COVID-19

This article is an English translation of the original version in German.

“Under COVID-19, visitor numbers have experienced an unprecedented boom. The Kottenforst was already a popular forest area before, over the year we counted an average of 290 passers-by per day. But in March and April, the number increased by a factor of 2.4,” says researcher Jakob Derks of the European Forest Institute (EFI), impressed by the results at an open-air press conference held in the Kottenforst on 14 May 2020.

While the evaluation of the counting station previously showed clear peaks in the morning and evening, which the researchers also attributed to commuters on bicycles, the Corona period is now dominated by afternoon visits to the forest, with very high visitor numbers. A comparison of the weekdays shows that Friday and Saturday have become much more popular and have recently recorded the highest number of visitors during the day. 


The European Forest Institute examined the visitor numbers within the framework of the European LIFE+ nature conservation project “Villewälder – Wald und Wasserwelten”, a cooperation project between the Regional Forestry Office Rhein-Sieg-Erft and the Biological Station Bonn/Rhein-Erft. The aim of the study, which also included surveys, was to gain insights into the needs of people when visiting forests. In order to record the number of visitors during the course of the year and depending on the time of day and day of the week, project staff set up an automatic counting station at a central point on one path of the Kottenforst in March last year. Actually, the survey should have been completed by the end of February. But then the physical distancing measures took place, and the data already obtained could now be compared with new data.



Hourly visitor numbers in Kottenforst per weekday before and during Covid-19 restrictions


Georg Winkel, Head of EFI – Bonn Office, explained that “these data underline the importance of forests close to cities for the well-being of people. This has been known not only since Corona, but in view of the high visitor numbers, this aspect also deserves more political attention”. Uwe Schölmerich, Head of the Rhein-Sieg-Erft Forestry Office and with over 100 employees working for the forests in the region, is pleased with the results and the interest in visiting the forests, but also observes the other side: conflicts among people who have very different needs, whether they are comfortable walking, mountain biking or horse riding. He therefore calls for: “Show prudence. Respect the forest work, take your rubbish home and show consideration for others. Be a blessing to the forest.”


Andreas Wiebe Director of Wald und Holz NRW adds: “The scientific evaluation of visitor numbers in the Kottenforst confirms the counts in our Eifel National Park Forestry Office and the subjective observations in all regional forestry offices. Further proof of the outstanding importance of the forests and the work of our foresters for the people of NRW”

This article was originally published on the 15 May 2020 on the Resiliance Blog website:


Author: Gesche Schifferdecker, European Forest Institute

EFI provides forest-related knowledge around three interconnected and interdisciplinary themes: bioeconomy, resilience and governance and is a CLEARING HOUSE partner.

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