Recreation in the forest
The forest benefits us in many different ways: It supplies us with wood, protects us against natural hazards and promotes species diversity. The forest is a local recreational area that can be enjoyed by the population every day. Many people, particularly in the vicinity of urban agglomerations and in tourism regions, seek rest and recovery in the forest. The forest offers ideal conditions for this: Clean air, tranquillity and a pleasant, soothing climate make it an ideal place to recharge one’s batteries. In addition to calmer activities such as walking and gathering, the forest also offers space for various sporting activities such as jogging, Nordic walking and mountain biking.
The forest is an especially popular recreational destination in the summer: 12% of the population walks through the forest almost every day, while about 40% does so once or twice a week. In the winter, the forest tends to be used less. Still, the percentage of people who visit the forest every day is 8% and the percentage of those who do so once or twice per week is 28%. On average, the Swiss spend 90 minutes in the forest. The most important reasons they cite for visiting the forest are primarily to enjoy fresh air, experience nature, stay healthy and break up the daily routine. Less often cited reasons include the desire to be alone or engage in sports activities.
95% of the population considers forest visits relaxing, and about the same amount of people, 88%, state that they are satisfied with their visits to the forest. This shows that the forest makes an important contribution to human health and well-being. For that reason, the state is assessed as positive.
The forest is used so extensively for recreational purposes due in part to the typically ideal conditions in Switzerland. The forest is easily accessible and, for many people, practically located right on their doorstep: On average, the Swiss reach their recreational forest in 14 minutes, while only 4% require more than a half an hour to reach it. Due to the generally good accessibility, 70% walk and another 7% ride their bicycle to the forest.
Rest and recreation can be disrupted mainly by other forest users. In such cases, cyclists and people with dogs are most frequently mentioned. While such encounters do not detract significantly from the positive experience of the forest, the potential for conflict should be reduced in the future through better infrastructure planning. Examples include visitor directions and special paths for mountain bikers.
The data come from two representative surveys on the Swiss population's attitude toward the forest and its functions. The first study concerning social demands on the Swiss forest (Gesellschaftliche Ansprüche an den Schweizer Wald – Meinungsumfrage) was published in 1999 by the Federal Office for the Environment (known as SAEFL at the time). For this study, around 2,000 people were surveyed by telephone. For the second study that was carried out in 2010 by the Swiss Federal Institute of Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL), around 3,000 people were surveyed by telephone and on line.