Sapokka Water Garden


The Sapokanlahti area has played an important functional role since the days of the Ruotsinsalmi fortress town, which was established at the end of the 18th century. At one point, there were plans to build a repair dock for the Russian fleet in the bay. The name Sapokka probably comes from the Russian word sapog (boot), because the shape of the bay resembles a boot.

In addition to its more industrial and maritime functions the area has also been used extensively for recreation.The Sapokanlahti area was specified as a park area in the town plan as early as 1917. At the initiative of the Norwegian colony in Kotka, a ski jump was built in the place where the waterfall is located now. The ski jump was used until 1953.
Ski jumping competitions at Sapokka in 1913.

Awareness of environmental issues increased

In the 1980s, the Sapokanlahti bay did not meet the expectations of the local people, who were becoming increasingly aware of environmental issues. The bay had become filled with sludge, it was badly polluted, and caused occasional odour problems. It was even proposed that the bay should be filled in.

A decision was made to thoroughly clean the bay and to restore the conditions to an ecologically sustainable level. About 50 cm of badly polluted bottom mud was dredged from the bay. The mud was placed in the base structures of the present winter storage area for boats. A dam structure was built to raise the water level by about 30 centimetres from the former level. The total amount of water in the bay was hence increased by about 80 centimetres, which also contributed to the cleanliness of the bay.

Thousands of people came to see the inauguration of the Sapokka Water Garden in 1993.

Construction work started

The plans for the Sapokka Water Garden were approved in 1987, and renovation commenced in 1990. Initially, there was lively debate among the local inhabitants with opinions in favour of the project and especially against it.

As the construction work made progress, the park gained much positive publicity and acclaim. Various awards were also received. As a result, local resistance gradually faded away after the essence of the park began to emerge. Most of the building work coincided with the worst years of economic recession in Finland, which caused some additional criticism and pressure.

The Sapokka Water Garden was completed for the most part four years later, serving as an oasis for people of all ages. Today the park is a true source of pride for the residents of Kotka. Since its completion, the Sapokka Water Garden has become a significant tourist attraction, whilst also appealing to garden professionals and enthusiasts for inspiration.

Design objectives

The twin primary objectives for the design of the Water Garden were to clean up the badly polluted bay located near the centre of Kotka and to provide a versatile green area.

Vegetation, water, stone and lighting are the primary elements of the park. The objective was to create interesting details and varying sceneries which would attract people over and over again. The park was also intended to serve an educational purpose of increasing awareness of a green urban environment.


Harmony with the natural surroundings

The park´s design was based on matching the constructed environment with the natural surroundings.

In terms of vegetation and structures, the park varies considerably. Even though there is variety, the goal was to create a harmonious overall impression.


Carefully built stone structures

Diverse stone structures carefully and skilfully built have given the park a cohesive appearance. A number of old buildings foundations; for example the side steps of the former market hall of Kotka and the main steps of the old shopping centre, have gained a new lives in the Sapokka Water Garden.

The special illumination of the park is turned on every evening at the same time as the street lights. The play of light and shadow creates an entirely new, exciting atmosphere in the surroundings.