The archetypal Christmas symbol is a sad reminder of the decimation of Algarve forests. Forum Algarve, however, hopes to sow more than goodwill with a Christmas gift that will last. Two summers of fires, which claimed 40 per cent of the Algarve’s forests and burned 18 per cent of the whole region, could have dampened Christmas spirits, but Forum Algarve is using the festive season to reforest lost woodland and harness public support for the environment.
The shopping centre, in partnership with the councils of Loulé and São Brás, and the Associação de Produtores Florestais da Serra do Caldeirão, plans to plant close to 500,000sqm of new saplings in the Caldeirão forest. Forum Algarve takes on a charitable theme every Christmas – in the past benefiting UNICEF and other children’s organisations.
This year Forum Algarve has erected a 250sqm ice rink within the complex. Shoppers can pay two euros for a 20 minute skating session – a fee which will be used in full to plant one sapling. Along with the ice rink, the centre will display a miniature Serra do Caldeirão near Santa’s village, along with a photographic exhibition, maps and reports to explain the effects of the summer fires on the environment. The centre is distributing 160,000 leaflets to publicise the campaign. “This is seasonal, educational, environmental and ice skating is a fun, family activity,” says Forum Algarve’s deputy centre manager, Carlos Costa.
The campaign started on November 6 with the arrival of Father Christmas at the shopping centre. Jardim Vista, which landscapes and maintains Forum Algarve’s grounds, is supporting the event. Martin Date, Jardim Vista’s General Manager, says it is a topic close to the hearts of Algarveans. “The forest fires were hugely depressing for everyone who lives here. This is an opportunity to reap the huge amount of goodwill that exists for the natural environment of the region, and to make a positive difference.”