Stop-over sites at highways in North Karelia

10 december 2012
There are quite many stop-over sites at North Karelia´s highways, for example on the Blue Road, Road 6, Road 9 and Road 74. The distance between these sites is about 10 kilometres. But it isn´t enough that there are many stop over sites on the road if there are no good practices how to arrange and maintain these sites. There are many solutions for this issue. But there are many problems, too.
In North Karelia there are usually no facilities at the stop over sites, for example garbage containers or toilets. Earlier there was, but the main problem was their inappropriate use which resulted from the lack of supervision and good instructions. Local people threw their domestic wastes to these garbage containers which were planned to be for the travellers. In addition, there was vandalism at night: local youngsters used to break the constructions.
In North Karelia some stop-over sites have info boards, which give information about tourism services and there is always also a map from the region. Info boards and maps are often the only way to show all the important services at the specific region. Beyond Finnish, the information is often in English but usually not in Russian. That is a problem because there are many Russian tourists in North Karelia. It is also important that the information will be updated regularly and info boards will be maintained in good condition. Co-operation between Tiehallinto (Road Administration), municipality and enterprises is needed to get high-quality info boards.  
When stop-over sites and their facilities are planned, it should be thought who is responsible for these facilities. Who will empty the garbage containers and toilets and where these wastes will be taken? What kind of dry toilet is the best alternative to that site? How much is there traffic along the road or let´s say how big is the demand for different facilities? There are many solutions. Municipality can arrange the roadside services but also the local society, private companies or Road Administration can be responsible for that. In North Karelia it is Road Administration who run these stop over sites. Road Administration maintains information about the amount of the traffic on the roads. It gives good supporting information about the situation and helps to make right decisions.  
Gas stations have largely replaced the stop over sites in North Karelia. There are many gas stations along the roads. The distance between these stations is typically about 30 kilometres. People can use toilet, throw their wastes to the garbage containers, fill their gas tanks and get something to eat or drink. Moreover, some info boards are placed at the gas stations. Compared to the stop over sites, the gas stations are very controlled places. The entrepreneur is responsible for the cleaning and garbage recycling. There are often video cameras that decrease vandalism. A good example for a well-organized gas station is in Tuupovaara at Kovero´s village. Beyond toilet, gas and restaurant services there is garbage recycling point with good recycling instructions. People can also leave their old tires to the station. Moreover, the station has a clear info board on the yard and a lean-to which people can use without payments. There is also a dry toilet outside: if people stop at night at this station they could use toilet though the station would be closed. So, it is quite attractive place to stop and have a break.
Though there are many gas stations along the roads, there are still problems at the stop over sites. When there are no garbage containers at these sites, people throw their wastes to the ground. So, the stop-over sites are quite untidy. Some garbage containers and dry toilets should be arranged there with regular management and control. And it would be a good solution to get info boards to these sites. Boards should give instructions to tourists, for example where you can put the garbage and how we recycle waste here in Finland. In addition, it is important that the texts of these info boards are at least in Finnish, English and Russian.  
So, in North Karelia the responsibility for the facilities has shifted largely from the Road Administration to the private entrepreneurs. It is quite a good solution to arrange all the facilities to the gas stations. Then you can control people´s action, keep the area clean and offer different services and information at the same place. But stop-over sites should not be forgotten because though there are many gas stations in North Karelia, people use also the stop over sites, especially if there are beautiful sceneries. It would make North Karelia more attractive to tourists if these sites would be clean and comfortable. So, people need education and information at the stop over sites, too. And moreover, the information should be in different languages.