Merko’s largest sponsorship project is the Estonian Health Trails, launched in 2005 with Swedbank and Eesti Energia. The aim of the project is to renew and develop recreational and fitness trails in Estonia to make free outdoor exercise facilities available to as many people as possible all year round and to promote an active lifestyle. In 15 years, Eesti Terviserajad SA (Estonian Health Trails Foundation) has played a significant role in shaping and promoting people’s exercise habits through a network of recreational trails, events and active communication.
Over these 15 years, 116 health trails and 1,110 km of trekking paths or roads have been built all over Estonia, including 910 km of soft-paved paths, 200 km of paved roads and 255 km of illuminated roads and paths. On average, there are 83.7 km of maintained health trails and 19.2 km of illuminated trails per 100,000 inhabitants in Estonia. The Health Trails Foundation designed the Õismäe Bog trail, the Ehitajate tee tunnel, the viaduct and tunnel on the Järve health trail, and the cycle and pedestrian track, which Tallinn municipality built in 2019. In addition to the Õismäe trail, the Järta health trail in Märjamaa and the Pärnu-Jaagupi health trail in Pärnumaa county were added to the network in 2019.
These trails are visited an estimated four million times a year, and to collect more accurate visitation statistics, motion sensors were installed on 40 trails in 2019. In addition, weather sensors, 11 webcams have been installed on the most visited trails. The foundation continued its active role as trainer, organising seminars and courses for the network and offering consultations to trail planners. In 2019, the focus was on building cycle tracks, and a practical training course was organised in cooperation with Czech cycle track planners.
The foundation has supplied the tracks with a total of 86 track maps to facilitate navigation, 38 stretching walls for stretching exercises, and 70 track markings. The foundation has produced more than 90 educational videos in Estonian and Russian, as well as various exercise promotion videos, which were viewed almost two million times on various channels during 2019.
In the years 2005–2019, the Estonian Health Trails Foundation has invested 5.1 million euros in the development of health trails with the support of its founders. The total investment made in the development of the Estonian health trail network during 2004–2019 (including investments from the state and local governments and EU subsidies) amounts to nearly 50 million euros. Investments have been made in all Estonian counties, most of all in the Harjumaa, Tartumaa and Ida-Virumaa counties. The largest investments have been made in Pirita, Nõmme-Harku, Kõrvemaa and Jõulumäe centres and trails based on the preferences of the local people and their active use of the trails. Since 2019, the Ministry of Culture is a fourth equal partner that helps to implement the goals of the Estonian Health Trails Foundation. The support measure for regional recreational sports centres, launched in 2019, will develop the capacity for the production of artificial snow and the maintenance and development of trails in 2019–2022. In cooperation between the state and local governments, a total of 4.8 million euros will be allocated for the 24 trails participating in the measure.
- Beginning of the project: