Naantali – a gateway to the archipelago

Tiina Rinne-Kylänpää,
Communication and Developing Manager,
City of Naantali,

Naantali is a town located on the southwestern coast of Finland and a part of the greater Turku area. The history of the town dates back to the 15th century when a Bridgettine convent was founded in the area. Shortly after that, the town itself started growing around the convent. Naantali is best known as a tourist destination, with Moominworld as the main attraction. In addition, it is an important site of industry and the third-largest cargo port in Finland.

Naantali became a town rich in islands in 2009 through a municipal merger that changed the structure of the town considerably. An archipelago area of more than 4,000 inhabitants, consisting of three previously independent island municipalities, was incorporated into the town that before the merger had approximately 13,000 inhabitants.

The added island regions increased the town’s surface area nearly sevenfold. Thanks to the many islands, the water area in Naantali, now totalling 372 km2, is larger than the land area, 311 km2. With its more than 1,000 islands and a coastline of 1,000 kilometres, the town has a maritime touch to it.

According to its strategy, Naantali wants to be a vibrant archipelago town that is building its future boldly and sees the island areas as an important resource. Naantali is a growing and attractive town. In 2018, in a survey assessing the attraction of municipalities and the willingness of people to move there, Naantali was estimated to be the second best place to live in Finland. In a recent study by the Association of Finnish Municipalities, Naantali was given best scores for its services.

Now, a good 10 years after the municipal merger, it can be noted that the union of archipelago and town has proven to be a successful one.

Islands under development

A vision extending to the year 2070 and utilising the methods of futurology and ecosystems thinking has been drawn up for Luonnonmaa, the island nearest to the centre of Naantali. The first step towards the vision is the 2022 Housing Fair to be arranged in Naantali – a major effort for a small town. A community and learning centre will be built in connection with the residential homes in the fair area, collecting a school, day-care centre and other services aimed at families under the same roof. In the Housing Fair area, effort is put into creating an atmosphere of archipelago and implementing principles of sustainable development. The primary theme in all construction is nature in the archipelago, and emphasis is given to preserving it as well as possible. The construction rules for the area recommend using local plant species in garden designing.

Innovative energy solutions, such as those to do with solar energy, are created for the area. The city of Naantali will be doing a pilot project on managing run-off rainwater during the construction of the Housing Fair area.

The city wants to invest in preserving local services in the archipelago. Furthermore, undertakings with regard to promoting remote services and remote work are under way.

Several village schools have been closed down in Finland in the past few years but Naantali swims against the tide here. The city believes in the future of the archipelago and is in the process of building a new village school in Velkua, on Palva island.

Also, alternative options for housing in the archipelago are being investigated. Livonsaari community village and Merimasku archipelago village are good examples of forms of housing that are well suited for the archipelago areas.

The future of the archipelago

Development in archipelago areas has been studied in Finland. Population has declined almost everywhere. The same trend can be seen in the outer areas of the Naantali archipelago, but a maritime way of living on the islands nearest to the town centre attracts those moving to Naantali.

The COVID-19 virus has brought about significant losses in many respects: health-wise, economically and emotionally. Increase in the popularity of the countryside and archipelago as well as the booming remote working are surprising positive phenomena associated with it. The number of seasonal inhabitants in the archipelago has never been as high as it is now. Sales of secondary residences has been record-breaking also in Naantali.

Now, many of those who have a second residence have the opportunity to work in the midst of the archipelago, living in their holiday home. New phenomena that are currently gaining ground in the archipelago are multi-local working and location-independent work, which appear to be among the new ways of living. Secondary residences are no longer used in summer only. Instead, they are often well-equipped houses that enable all-year living. This may prove to be a new opportunity for the archipelago. Inhabitants, even part-time ones, bring much needed life and activity to the archipelago. A dynamic archipelago creates well-being for the entire society. The new multi-local approach challenges municipalities and other actors to develop new services and to acknowledge these people also in decision-making. In order to lead a good life in the archipelago we need appealing places of residence and ways of living. This is something that municipalities should consider when zoning new maritime areas for housing.

Well-being of the Archipelago Sea is of key importance

The future of Naantali and its archipelago is in many respects dependent of the condition of the Archipelago Sea. For tourism and fishing as well as other forms of livelihood, the well-being of the sea is of key importance. Living by a sea that is in poor condition is not very appealing, either.

Naantali has drawn up an environment action programme that focuses on improving the condition of the Archipelago Sea. Furthermore, Naantali is participating in the Baltic Sea Challenge. Concrete measures include investigation of pollution sources that have an impact on the condition of local water areas as well as finding out about the practicality of seabins that are used to remove floating rubbish from the water. The number of septic tank emptying points has been increased in the archipelago. Also, more effective wastewater treatment in the archipelago is being investigated.

We are all responsible for ensuring the well-being of the Baltic Sea. Every concrete deed for the good of the sea – no matter how small – is important. The future of the archipelago is essentially dependent on the condition of the sea.


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