Locals Voice Concerns Over Forbidden Forest Experience Near Brussels
In a new twist on the adjective “forbidden,” locals are calling for the closure of one of the latest installments of Potter-themed adventure parks in Europe. Harry Potter: A Forbidden Forest Experience opened on the grounds of Groenenberg Castle, located southwest of Brussels, Belgium, on November 5 and is the first of its kind in mainland Europe. For some Belgian residents, however, it’s nothing short of an ecological calamity.
Harry Potter: A Forbidden Forest Experience is an attraction developed by Warner Bros. Themed Entertainment in collaboration with design agency Thinkwell and is intended to give fans the opportunity to step into one of the wizarding world’s wildest settings. Promotional videos show guests encountering unicorns, taking pictures with Hagrid’s giant half-brother, Grawp, and enjoying magical treats in the village.
Less-than-impressed locals have recently raised issues with the experience, citing concern for the historic park it inhabits. “It is at odds with what this piece of nature should mean,” stated local resident Hugo De Greef. De Greef is also aggrieved by the portable toilets, harsh lighting in the evenings, and noisy generators of the event, unpleasant features that he claims have marred the natural beauty of the Groenenberg castle grounds. Hugo Schoukens, another resident, concurred with De Greef. “The nature in the park is inevitably damaged as a result,” he said. “I understand the economic logic, but it must not come at nature’s expense.” The two are petitioning Flemish government officials to have the Forbidden Forest Experience closed.
The park certainly has economic potential for the area and is predicted to attract upwards of 200,000 guests by the time of its currently planned closure in February 2023. The Forbidden Forest Experience website also reports a partnership with the Agency for Nature and Forests of the Flemish Government in an effort to preserve and improve the area. Guests of the experience have the option to donate €3.60 (about $3.75) to both buy a tree and cover the cost of its planting and management in the Groenenberg region. The site lists the particular species of tree that thrive in Belgium (including the known wand wood trees blackthorn, hawthorn, hazel, and hornbeam) and encourages those buying tickets to contribute to the cause.
It is possible that this reality has tempered the responses of the government officials themselves. “The damage to the fauna and flora are negligible,” responded Hilde Groenweghe of Natuurinvest, the Flemish Government agency responsible for leasing state-owned land, such as the Groenenberg castle grounds. “No trees or plants have disappeared or will disappear. The containers and stalls are standing up the lawn. The other materials are placed in such a way that nature suffers as little damage as possible.” A spokesperson for Zuhal Demir, the Flemish Minister for the Environment, offered that there was a possibility the event’s scale had been initially misjudged.
What do you think? Does Harry Potter: A Forbidden Forest Experience cause a negative environmental impact? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.