Rannametsa – Soometsa Nature Reserve is the unique reserve in the Estonia. The present Nature Reserve with the territory of 9860 ha, was established in 2000. It was created by merging together several smaller protected areas with different protection regime. The function of the reserve is to protect the present and former coastal landscapes from coastal areas up to postglacial sand dunes and peatlands. At the same time the reserve is also serving as the habitat for several rare or endangered animal and plant species. Lying at the Pärnu Lowland, this area consist all of the distinctive features of nature of the South-Western Estonia: large and flat coastal formations, sand dunes, forests and mires. This region has deserved the designation as separate bio-geographical region - Littorale haedemeestense- due to its characteristic nature by the famous geobotanist Theodor Lippmaa.
Between these two chains of dunes - ancient coastlines, lays the Tolkuse bog. This bog is formed from the coastal laguna of the Littorina period, by the paludification of the ancient bay. Behind the Soometsa dunes is situating the Maarjapeakse or Soometsa bog. This bog is formed by the paludification of the shallow and wet terrain. The Tolkuse bog is divided (split) by the hand dug channel Timmkanal, made by the local landlord in the middle of the 19.th century. In the river bank near the village Rannametsa is situating the representative cross-section of the geological past of the area from the Littorina sand until Devon sandstone.
There is no local administration of the Rannametsa – Soometsa Nature Reserve. The statutory administrative functions are carried out by Pärnu County Environmental Department of the Ministry of the Environment. The LIFE project “Restoration and Management of the Häädemeeste Wetland Complex”, implemented locally by the Estonian Ornithological Society, is to help to carry out several conservational tasks, ranging from development of the management plan, restoration and management of various habitats to development of the visitors infrastructure and rising of environmental awareness.
This work will be done in novel way, in partnership with statutory and local institutions and together with local stakeholders.
The landscape of the reserve, specifically the dunes and bogs has been traditionally favored site for recreation and outdoor activities. This is partly due to good road access to the reserve, especially by crossing of Via Baltica major highway. The state forest area of the reserve is a part of the Pärnu – Ikla recreation zone of the state forest management organization RMK. This body is responsible on the development and maintaining of the visitors infrastructure on state forest and carrying out this task in co-operation with reserve administration and LIFE project. The area is very interesting as birdwatching destination and amount of relevant visitors is increasing constantly.
There is nature trail and other visitor’s attractions in the Rannametsa dunes and Tolkuse bog and several birdwatching towers at coast. There is a published visitor’s map and information leaflet for the reserve. In spite of the Nature Reserve and the new conservation values discovered, the certain restrictions to the visitor access have created, most of the places like dune forest, bogs and coastal areas have free access. This is because of the goal of the reserve to serve as site for exposing and demonstrating the natural values and rise environmental awareness.