How green should our cities be? And to what extent do we need to cater for physical exercise?

By Dr. Ulrich Maly, Mayor of Nuremberg

How green should our cities be? And to what extent do we need to cater for physical exercise?

Nuremberg is among the most densely built-up major cities in Germany. Available to the more than 500,000 residents of the city and the many visitors for outdoor leisure and recreational activities is just over 1000 acres of open green space. At the same time, Nuremberg is continuing to grow and there is an escalating demand for new workplaces and more accommodation.

Not only must the local authority find additional building plots, it must also ensure that its citizens can enjoy a healthy lifestyle and that the air, soil and water systems do not become polluted. Other major factors, such as climate change, the preservation of biodiversity and the protection of Nuremberg's historic cultural landscapes, such as its Reichwald woodland, its Knoblauchsland market garden region and meadows, must also be taken into account.

To be sustainable, an urban planning strategy must also embrace the design and construction of new green and open spaces and the provision of links between these and the more heavily built-up areas. Quality of life is determined by residential surroundings and this means there is a demand for appealing open spaces that are appropriate to the needs of an evolving heterogeneous urban population. Residents want to live in a 'city of short distances' and thus they also have the wish to be able to enjoy recreational activities in the immediate vicinity of where they reside. For the older and less mobile section of the population, the value of having easily accessible, well-maintained and safe green spaces close to home grows exponentially. In the case of families with children, their quality of life in the city is determined to a significant extent by the availability of nearby green spaces. These public areas need to be diverse, easily reached, designed to accommodate the needs of changing mobility and behaviour patterns and conform to and provide for environmental requirements and functions; these multifaceted natural landscapes can act as havens and sites for recreation, as places where active exercise can be taken in the form of games and sport and also as venues where people can come together and interact.

As the city expands and more and more land is required for building, the competition for space increases. This is a challenge that can only be mastered by means of the formulation of innovative planning strategies. The aim is to carefully coordinate urban and open space planning concepts to provide for a sustainable long-term overall approach to development, allowing the generation of an intra-urban, widely interconnected network of green structures and open spaces. At the core of Nuremberg's integrated urban development strategy is a well thought-out inner city design concept that has the goal of providing high-quality green and open spaces close to residential areas. Urban green spaces do more than just improve quality of life - they also determine where people want to live.

In order to achieve these objectives, Nuremberg local authority has put together an open space master plan. This open space blueprint covers the whole of the city and is embodied in our mission statement 'Kompaktes Grünes Nürnberg 2030' that ensures that our urban green and open space development program is harmonised with our commercial property development strategy and our future residential concept 'Wohnen 2025'. The intention was to prepare an overall planning strategy that sets out guiding principles, implementation strategies and measures for the various areas of Nuremberg that will meet the current and future needs of its residents. The master plan will be given more tangible form in coming years by means of the introduction of spatial planning concepts for each district and the prioritisation of implementation measures.

The first concrete steps towards the realisation of this approach were outlined in our 'Kompaktes Grünes Nürnberg 2020' program. This catalogues a selection of various prioritised projects, such as the development of the Gründlachtal area as a multifunctional meadow landscape, the creation of the new Wetzendorfer Park and the renovation of the existing Cramer Klett Park. The program also includes measures relating to climate adaptation strategies, the improvement of biodiversity, the configuration of local cultural landscapes, the addition of links to open spaces and the protection of water resources.


Exercise in the open air

Within Nuremberg there are many venues where leisure activities can be enjoyed. There are amenities for football, running, walking, skating, cycling and exercising in the open air; the needs of people of all ages, all capacities and all interests are provided for when it comes to sport and exercise.

Signposting systems have been successively added to the various footpath/jogging routes since 2009, most of which pass by exercise parks. These outdoor public facilities offer many options for exercise, from strengthening exercises using leg trainer equipment to balance training on a wobbly bridge. They can be used to warm up and get one's muscles coordinated in preparation for the use of a jogging trail and also to stretch on completion of the run. The equipment is designed so that all age groups - including the elderly - can use them to maintain their physical fitness. Our public exercise parks are open all year round and are free to use; gratifyingly enough, they are proving to be popular with all generations. It was clear at the time of planning these venues that they could not be individually designed so as to appeal to all age groups - from 3 to 99 year-olds - to the same extent. For this reason, each park places its main emphasis on something different that is appropriate to location, size and target group. They have also been designed to stimulate people to leave their homes and use them again and again while they additionally serve as meeting places where users can make and maintain social contacts.

We now have six such amenities in Nuremberg where people of all ages can exercise. Nuremberg's exercise park in its Langwasser district won first prize in the 2009 German Playground Award competition that had as its theme 'Playgrounds for all'. A further exercise park is to be constructed on the southern bank of the Wöhrder See lake as part of our waterside redevelopment project (construction to start: late 2016/early 2017). Information boards at each exercise station will provide instructions on the use of the equipment and explain what muscles groups will be trained. A smartphone app and QR codes will also enable users to view images of the exercises and training videos. A new park is also to be installed on the northern bank and this will place a focus on different forms of exercise.

In order to increase the awareness and use of the exercise parks and to encourage Nuremberg's residents to assume a more active, health-conscious lifestyle, the local sport authority and Nuremberg-based sport associations provide regular introductory training courses. Within our 'Take part and stay fit' campaign, qualified trainers offer from May to September such courses for all age groups during which participants learn how to improve their basic motor skills, coordination, stamina and flexibility. And plenty of provision is made to ensure everyone enjoys themselves. The participants then, in their turn, act as disseminators, passing on what they have learned to others. The courses also provide people with the opportunity to regularly meet others in the exercise park.

In order to satisfy the current trend for more self-organised activities and to create new exercise options, additional equipment has been installed in exercise parks and playgrounds that can be used for training using one's own bodyweight. Groups who practice forms of exercise such as street workout, freeletics and callisthenics will now find these sites suitable for their needs. A new parkour park that has been planned with the extensive involvement of young people is to be constructed in spring 2017 in Westtorgraben.

The on-going augmentation of public amenities across the whole of the city and the interlinking of the various exercise spaces means that Nuremberg can now boast locations where old and young can encounter each other. Those seeking opportunities to exercise in their free time will find an extensive range of appropriate sites at their disposal - and not only in summer. Even in winter, there are still cross-country skiing, ice skating and tobogganing.


Image: Nuremberg local authority

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