Dutch park makes festive freebie tree offer

TREE HUGGER: A woman carries her free sawed Christmas tree at The Dutch Hoge Veluwe National Park in Otterlo Netherlands. The initiative aims at reducing the pine population in the park, which is growing in vast proportions due to the amount of nitrogen in the soil
TREE HUGGER: A woman carries her free sawed Christmas tree at The Dutch Hoge Veluwe National Park in Otterlo Netherlands. The initiative aims at reducing the pine population in the park, which is growing in vast proportions due to the amount of nitrogen in the soil
Image: PIROSCHKA VAN DE WOUW/REUTERS

A national park in the Netherlands is making an unusual offer to visitors this holiday season: come and chop down your own Christmas tree — for free.

Rangers in Hoge Veluwe Park, near the eastern city of Arnhem, have set aside areas where Scots pines are threatening to overwhelm land used by lizards, crickets and other rare species.

They have invited visitors to bring their own axe, or borrow a handsaw from the site, to help keep the heathland clear.

Hundreds of families have already turned up this December to take their own trees, free of charge.

Staff have been struggling to control the spread of the trees thriving on the sandy, nitrogen-rich soil, said ranger Henk Ruseler.

“In this area we have several lizards, crickets, lichens and most of them are quite rare — they are on the European Red List of threatened species,” he said.

“So when this area becomes a forest, then all these rare species disappear.”

The problem was partly caused, he said, by rising levels of nitrogen in the environment from transport fumes and the over-fertilisation of farmland.

In November the government cut speed limits to try to reduce nitrogen levels.

The Hoge Veluwe, with its current expanses of 3,200ha of woodland and 2,100ha of heathland, is also know for its museum and gallery, with an impressive collection of Van Goghs and Modernist art.

The tree scheme runs for the next two weekends, with a limit of one tree per visitor. — Reuters

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