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15.06.2016 - Ausgabe: 3/2016

Park with motor skills exercise trail


Following a two-year construction phase, the Europa playground in the 'Park am Buschkrug' in Berlin was opened by district mayor Franziska Giffey and Thomas Blesing of the local building authority. Around the periphery of this green space runs a motor skills exercise trail.

The park itself is named for a former brasserie opposite called the 'Buschkrug'. In previous centuries the site, some 79,000 m² in extent, had served as a cemetery and it was subsequently used as a waste tip for debris from war-torn Berlin.

Today the 'Park am Buschkrug' is not the place to go if it is repose you are seeking – the emphasis here is on exercise. In September 2011, Germany's largest continuous motor skills exercise trail was opened in the 'Park am Buschkrug' in the Neukölln district of Berlin. The idea came into being in view of the need to provide people – irrespective of origin, religion, age and physical and mental abilities – with the opportunity to take free exercise tailored to their individual capacities. In an era of increasing urbanisation and the loss of green and open spaces, it is becoming more and more important to ensure that the scope for physical activity is preserved. Humans have a natural requirement for exercise but find few openings in the built-up environment surrounding them to actually be able to indulge in this fundamental necessity.

The local authority in Neukölln decided to do something to counteract this growing problem and to provide the requisite exercise options in the 'Park am Buschkrug'. The playground equipment manufacturer merry go round was tasked with the design, planning and construction of a multigenerational exercise amenity that everyone would be able to use free of charge: the result was the creation of Germany's largest motor skills exercise trail.

A major requirement for the concept was that the open space, which had become misappropriated by rival criminal families with a migrant background as a lair for their antisocial activities, including the selling of drugs, should again be restored to a park-like condition so that it would provide recreation for all local residents.

The basic design of the motor skills exercise trail was developed by merry go round in cooperation with Dr. Roland Werthner, an Austrian specialist for sport and kinesiology (who will be giving a presentation in Berlin on 12 October 2016). The underlying principle of all motor skills exercise trails is that they are there to be used by everyone and anyone across all the generations – in other words by young and old, by those with and without disabilities, by those seeking light exercise and by serious athletes – they thus provide for the inclusion of all individuals seeking some form of physical activity. People can use the equipment of such a trail alone, with friends, as a family, in self-organised groups; they can be used by kindergarten children and school classes and they can be used by sports clubs and under the supervision of qualified trainers. All the equipment combines elements of training theory with practical suitability, ensuring users are kept active through play-like dynamic exercise. In addition to meeting the current understanding of physical needs, the motor skills exercise concept also places a major emphasis on the provision of options to promote coordination and stamina by means of low to high intensity forms of exercise that are unconventional and are designed to tax physical and motor skills capacities.

The motor skills trail in the 'Park am Buschkrug' thus has more than 50 different pieces of equipment designed to train different movement combinations and muscle groups. These are positioned along the trail in various successive stations that supplement each other. All equipment can be used by everyone, no matter what their abilities and fitness levels are and they thus offer all users a suitable and individually-adapted level of difficulty. The aim is not to get through the exercises as quickly as possible but to enjoy them and experience the pleasure of physical movement and the sense of doing something that runs counter to conventional exercise patterns. It must be borne in mind that this is Germany's longest motor skills exercise trail. The way the stations have been arranged means that it will take a user some 2 hours to fully complete the trail. Some stations help the user progress along the trail; such stations include the monkey bars, the 'different walking' and balancing sections, a balance 'workshop' and a sensory skills training segment. Alternating with these are themed sections consisting of groups of equipment with specific shared purposes, such as a 'power pavilion', a 'rotary movement oasis' and a climbing zone incorporating a water ski ramp. This combination of progress-promoting and more static themed sections is supplemented by individual elements in smaller form (such as the 'pentagon' and the targeted throwing area) and larger form (such as the circular running track).

And it has become quite apparent that the planners and builders have gone down exactly the right path. The amenity is in constant use by local residents and visitors, school classes and day care centres, young and old, the well-trained and untrained – by individuals and groups, with and without supervision.

This continuing popularity of the trail although it is already 5 years old can be attributed to several aspects. One of the main factors in this connection is the extent of the trail. The large number of pieces of equipment and their diversity generate a considerable incentive to use them while the wealth of options appeal to the individual wants of each potential user. It is unimportant whether users employ just their own single favourite piece of equipment, whether motor skills exercise is merely a supplement to play or a visit to the park or whether the trail is used to run through a targeted training programme – it is the volume of equipment and the range of choice that have made the basic concept so successful and ensure it helps keep Neukölln in trim.

Another facet is the maintenance and upkeep of an amenity like this, which, whether large or small, must be all times in a condition that it can be used. Required for this purpose are regular inspections and repeated minor repair work, an inevitable consequence of the use of the equipment by several hundred people every week. The sections that suffer most are the moveable parts that reach – happily in this case – the limits of their service life as a result of permanent use. Wear and tear is a positive sign because this means the amenity is being used and that is what the trail is there for – to be used. Another problem for upkeep is vandalism, an ingredient that it is never possible to fully exclude or prevent in a public site such as a park. But the associated damage most often merely takes the form of daubing and graffiti as the equipment itself is stable and robust and has been firmly anchored in place.


The park as a whole

The concept used for the children's playground takes as its theme various countries in Europe. Children can thus splash around in an Austrian-Swiss lake-style water play area, grab a pizza or other treats in the Italian pizza pavilion or boldly descend a gigantic Dracula motif slide. Toddlers can enjoy a touch of Scandinavia in a sandpit landscape. All this is complemented by paved pathways and large grassed areas where parents can set out a picnic. "There are unique custom-built features that represent seven regions of the European continent," explains Thomas Blesing of the building authority.

Over a total of five construction phases, the local authority has invested €3.2 million in renovating the green space; the motor skills exercise trail runs around the entire playground and the pathways were overhauled at a cost of €700,000. The motor skills exercise trail is the crowning glory of this now magnificent park, providing exercise and fitness for all. Thomas Blesing adds: "We of the local authority can be proud of what we have achieved here. The park brings together green spaces, exercise options for young and old and an adventure playground for children. This is money well spent."


Image: merry go round OHG


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