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14.04.2023 - Ausgabe: 2/2023

Everything on the move: AktivLinearPark

By M. Sc. Inga Brockstedt (FL Freese Landschaftsarchitekten Partnerschaftsgesellschaft mbB Freianlagen + Landschaft)
© Volker Wiciok

Where once coal and mining materials were moved by mine railways, today children, young people and adults can cycle, train on calisthenics facilities, test themselves on the pump track or climb on an unusual play facility. Along the way, both young and old can learn and experience interesting historical facts in a playful way: Did you know that coal was not washed in the coal washing plant? These and other questions are answered in the new AktivLinearPark in the Hoheward Landscape Park.

Since 2004, the Regionalverband Ruhr (Ruhr regional association RVR) and the cities of Herten and Recklinghausen have implemented the Hoheward Landscape Park project in cooperation with Ruhrkohle AG. The project is based on the master plan of Landscape Park Emscherbruch - New Horizons, which is based on the planning idea of Agence Ter, Professor Henri Bava, Paris/ Karlsruhe. Planning and construction supervision of the open spaces was carried out by the landscape architects FL Freese Landschaftsarchitektur, Marl/ Dorsten (since 2022 FL Freese Landschaftsarchitekten PartGmbB).

The financial basis for the implementation of the measures and projects was initially provided by the funding programme "ÖPEL" - Ecology Programme Emscher-Lippe. AktivLinearPark is the last construction project supported by EU funds under the European Regional Development Fund - ERDF NRW 2014 - 2020 programme through the state government's Funding Call "Green Infrastructure NORTH RHINE-WESTPHALIA”. It was based on the Integrated Action Concept Emscherland 2020.

The landscape park is dominated by the Hoheward slag heap, which rises to a height of over 100 m with a base area of 160 hectares. Together with the adjacent Hoppenbruch slag heap, it is probably the largest coal mining slag heap landscape in Europe. Today, the vegetated slag heaps are important areas for recreation and leisure for the people of the Ruhr region.

Two horizon astronomy installations on the top of the Hoheward slag heap represent a very special feature: A horizon sundial with obelisk and the horizon observatory with equator and meridian arcs. On one’s way up, both places are special destinations and once one reaches the top, exceptional places to stay.

The AktivLinearPark now closes the last "gap" in the ring promenade which surrounds the Hoheward slag heap at the foot of the slag heap and connects all the neighbouring urban districts.

A roughly 1.5 km long and 40 m wide area at the southern foot of the slag heap, which was previously inaccessible to the general public, will become the new AktivLinearPark. It was here, where the sidings of the former Ewald coal mines in Herten and Recklinghausen II ran through. In addition to the coal, the mine railways were used to transport the mine tailings to various unloading stations. One of these stations was the former transfer station Ewald. It was located in the centre of today's park. At that time, the directly adjacent tailings handling facility was connected to the still existing hopper tower on the Hoheward slag heap. A large conveyor belt system ran like a bridge high above the tracks. The transhipment facility and the conveyor belt are no longer visible today. They have been replaced by a large playground.

The basis for the design of the AktivLinearPark by FL Freese was the planning idea of the Ruhr Regional Association. The design is based on the guiding idea of giving the new park a strong identity through different functions of use, based on the overarching concept for the Hoheward Landscape Park which integrates mining history relics. 

The specific, also contradictory qualities of the site are highlighted, especially with the design potential of free track ballast areas. On this relic of the former mine railway, the contrast between the past of the mining industry and the reconquest by nature creates an exciting contrast.


Orange ribbon

The connecting element for all user functions is the "orange ribbon", which is designed as a curved strip of clinker brick paving with platforms and walls as well as colourfully painted catenary masts of the former mine railway. 

There were several hundred mines in the Ruhr area, which were connected by a widely spread network of mine railways. These mine railways were often very busy. To protect the people working on the tracks, the locomotives were painted in a signal colour - bright orange. In this way the workers on site were enabled to notice on time the approaching trains. Today, the guiding orange colour in the park is a reminder of the former mine railway use.


Rest areas and active zones

The functions in the park are divided into rest areas and activity zones. While the quiet areas mainly consist of green spaces, the activity zones are designed with learning, sports and play areas. The quiet areas and activity zones, each with their own atmospheres, are designed to be quiet or loud, slow or fast, open or sheltering. This allows a diverse appropriation of the park by different generations.

In the rest areas, existing dry habitats and other typical biotope structures were preserved, expanded and also new ones were created. An appropriately sensitive treatment of the sensitive areas is an important concern for the operators of the AktivLinearPark. With the fields of trees and shrubs, new habitats are created and awareness is raised for native as well as climate-resilient woody plants.

In addition, the horizon astronomy theme, which has so far found expression on the Hoheward slag heap in the sundial and the observatory, is complemented in the rest areas by the twelve signs of the zodiac.

In the active zones there is a calisthenics facility for outdoor sports. Here, equipment that is less susceptible to vandalism has been installed for self-weight exercises on a synthetic fall protection surface. In addition to this, there are other freestyle machines available to work different muscle groups. The area is bordered by regularly interrupted hedge plantings, which offer a certain degree of privacy, but also provide a view and overview to avoid the creation of fear causing spaces.

Another offer is provided by the pump track facility for sports activities. There is one track for young people and adults and a smaller one for children and beginners. The surface of these tracks is modelled in asphalt. Since planning and building a pump track requires special knowledge, the planning and installation processes were realised in cooperation with the expert Konrad Willar (pumptrack.de, Augsburg).


Field of history - place of change

While the western section stands predominantly for recreation and industrial nature, the eastern section is characterised mainly by the activities on offer. Both sections are connected by the centre - a historical field that has become a place of change.

Here, a large play structure created by ESF Emsland Spiel- und Freizeitgeräte GmbH & Co. KG, Geeste, recreates the former ribbon bridge over the railway track. The basis for the design and construction was the planning idea of FL Freese. The main target group of the large playground are children aged 6 to 14. The design of the supplementary play equipment for toddlers is in line with the large play equipment and primarily provides younger children between 3 and 6 years of age with play offerings.

It is crucial for the functionality of the large playground that there are several access points. On the one hand, this reduces the pressure of use and, on the other hand, offers the children the possibility to leave the facility at different points. Furthermore, it is possible to exit the facility via a tube slide. The facility is also accessible for adults. In this way, it is possible to accompany younger children, to check the safety of the facility on a regular basis and to ensure rescue in the event of an emergency.

The main components of the playground, in particular the posts and load-bearing parts, are made of steel, as it is expected that the playground has a long service life and should be as resistant to vandalism as possible. Because of the nearby high-voltage overhead line, the height of the equipment in the protective strip of the line is limited. In addition, for safety reasons, climbing on the equipment from the outside is prevented due to its specific construction.

When designing the large playground, the reference to the historical context was explicitly desired. In the process, an outstanding, characteristic facility was created based on the former ribbon bridge. In addition, the appearance of the facility reflects the industrial character and achieves a long-distance effect and prominence within the park. The orange colour as a central design feature in the AktivLinearPark is also reflected in the playground.

At the foot of the Hoheward slag heap, a former railway track area has been redefined. With the AktivLinearPark, which was opened in autumn 2022 during a family festival, a piece of attractive slag heap landscape was created from a no man's land. A place of physical activity that combines and integrates the functions of open space, nature, recreation and tourism.


Further Information:

FL Freese Landschaftsarchitekten

Partnerschaftsgesellschaft mbB Freianlagen + Landschaft

Altendorfer Straße 274 46282 Dorsten

Telefon: +49 2362 993997 – 0 E-Mail: landschaft@freese-planung.de


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