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Increase in visitors to Sonian Forest results in more fines, warnings

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM: Illustration picture shows the dreve des Bonniers / Bundersdreef road that runs along the border between Brussels and Flanders at the Sonian Forest (Zonienwoud - Foret de Soignes). (BELGA PHOTO SISKA GREMMELPREZ)
09:42 23/02/2021

The significant increase in the number of visitors to the Sonian Forest since the first coronavirus restrictions came into force in March 2020 has resulted in an equally substantial rise in fines and warnings issued by forestry officials.

The rangers and supervisors of the Sonian Forest issued 175 warnings and fines last year compared to 135 in 2019. That's an increase of almost 30% in one year.

The number of fines increased by 12% and went from 99 in 2019 to 112 in 2020. The number of written warnings almost doubled: from 36 to 63, according to forest manager Stéphane Vanwijnsberghe of Brussels Environment, who added that the increased number of visitors has caused disturbances and distress to the flora and fauna of the forest. "The reproduction of animals was disrupted last spring,” he said. “We will experience that problem again this year."

The breaches of forest regulations by visitors are, in most cases, related to improper parking or to dog owners who have let their animals of the leash; 52 and 47 cases respectively in 2020. This is followed by fly-tipping of household waste which accounted for 20 cases, and problems with cyclists such as riding in areas where this is prohibited, which resulted in 14 actions.

The larger turnout forced Brussels Environment to recruit two new rangers to cope with the demand. The service will soon also launch an awareness campaign in an attempt to cut down on visitors breaking the rules.

Written by Nick Amies