Dresden: Woodland playground Kleinzschachwitz
by Detlef Thiel, Chief Officer Regional Capital Dresden, Office for Urban Green Spaces and Waste Management
In the eastern part of Kleinzschachwitz there was at the time no public playground, although there was urgent need for one. Alongside a very committed District Office the association, "Something New on the Eastern Front" and the development association, "Putjatinhaus" are active here. The Leuben District Office, the two associations and the then Green Spaces Office came up with the first ideas for an adventure playground. However, there were no funds available in the budget of the regional capital, Dresden. The "Something New on the Eastern Front" Association masterminded a large-scale fund-raising campaign with the aim of constructing a public playground in the area. An area in the woodland park was chosen as the site, an area lying at a road junction, where few trees grew. The site was approved by the Green Spaces Office and expert support was agreed. The Lower Water Authorities also agreed to the construction of a playground, since the woodland park lies within the retention area and in principle has no effect on drainage. The Green Spaces Office took on the minor, but necessary felling and clearance tasks. The District Office work creation teams were able to undertake the clearing of wild vegetation in the planned areas.
The first donation was the design, prepared by the architect's studio, Architekturbüro Köckeritz. Many more citizens and associations became committed to the project, for example the Youth and Sports Foundation of the Sparkasse Dresden, the Johanniter Unfallhilfe Sachsen and many businesspeople from Kleinzschachwitz. The level of donations reached a total of 45,000 Euro.
In May 2003 it was possible to complete the woodland playground, which offered play equipment for able-bodied and disabled children. Tree house, climbing net, tightrope, swings, looped ladder, bird's nest see-saw and hammock delight children of all ages. The popularity of the playground can be traced back in particular to the fact that it is embedded in an oasis of woodland greenery, where you can hide or build yourself a hut out of branches, twigs and foliage. The equipment in the playground is crafted in false acacia wood, which guarantees durability. With its high levels and interlocking features the equipment offers a real challenge to skill and courage, so that you can often see adults climbing there alongside children. The safety provision in case of falls consists of a 50 cm thick layer of bark. The form, function and siting of the equipment was chosen in such a way that it has blended harmoniously with the natural surroundings. The playground became a popular meeting place, so that it could soon hardly cope with the added demands on it.
Second stage of construction of the Woodland Playground 2007 - 2010.
The joy did not last very long. In January 2007 the hurricane, "Cyril" caused damage in the whole woodland park and also in the playground. Countless trees which had already been damaged by the flooding of 2002 now fell victim to the storm. The storm drove a 40 metre wide aisle through the park. There followed a detailed stocktaking of the damage by the Office for Urban Green Spaces and Waste Management. Rapid action was needed, particularly to guarantee the survival of the playground. The landscape architect, Friederike Wagner was given the task of analysing the entire woodland park and producing a development plan, in order to be able to begin to remedy the damage in a speedy and orderly fashion and to take the most important steps with the few means at her disposal. The interests of all the users had to be considered in this process.
All those concerned had to work together speedily and without lots of red tape: the Office for Urban Green Spaces and Waste Management., the Lower Nature Conservation Authority, the Lower Forestry Authority, the District Office, associations, the school which was located next to the woodland park.
In order to restore the safety of the playground, the first tasks were the repair or removal of the play equipment. These tasks as well as the clearing and removal of the fallen trees were financed from the regional capital budget and carried out in Summer 2008. After the clearance and salvage work had been finished some 4,000 m² of open space emerged. Kleinzschachwitz lies on an island of sand between the Elbe and the Altelbarm. The type species for the area is the pine. Therefore the common pine was chosen as the main tree species in the reforestation. The forestation was carried out in September 2008; The Lower Forestry Authority made the pine plants available and the publicly owned Central Technical Service of the City of Dresden took on the task of planting them under specialist direction and they also erected a fence for the protection of the wildlife. The whole north eastern area was untouched and left as it was for reasons of species protection and no development plans were drawn up. As part of the forestation areas for the extension of the "Kletterwald" playground were left open. The historical network of paths was preserved.
The Office for Urban Green Spaces and Waste Management and the "Something New on the Eastern Front" Association involved the children from the neighbouring school and from the district in planning the extension of the playground with the help of projektschmiede G mbH and their "Settlers" project. The preliminary forum was on 20 June 2008. The pupils of the 65th Primary School presented the “Seconds in the Wood" Project.
It was possible to bring the process of forestation, necessitated by the natural catastrophe, close to the children as near neighbours of the wooded area and they followed the work and observed it with great interest.
The clearing up work was still in progress when the actual public Workshop Week took place under the leadership of projektschmiede GmbH and their "Settlers" project. The children planned and designed their playground themselves. They first completed a plan tailored to the area “to be settled". Then they constructed models in accordance with their ideas and wishes: Maze, climbing wall, horizontal bars, roller coaster, ropeway, slide, and trampoline, half pipe, and football field. The results were presented as part of a school festival. The model was passed to the District Office. The detailed design planning checked which of the children's suggestions were feasible and suitable for the wood. For some of the items, e.g. the football field the extension area was, of course, too small. In 2010 the City was able to make available the necessary funds. Before putting out to tender the design was checked by a consultant. In spring 2010 the step was realised. The further combination of play equipment took into consideration the desire of the children to be able to climb, hang and slide. A graded horizontal bar and a nest swing were installed separately. For the smaller children there are a wooden railway, two spring animal see-saws and a periscope. The periscope gives the children an unaccustomed view into the treetops. The existing sand pit was filled with fresh sand.
Individual trees which had survived the storm undamaged were integrated into the play area. On each of the three play areas within a distance from the equipment conforming to safety requirements three solitary trees were added, so that in the future play and the natural world will still be mingled.
The huge response and use testifies to the quality of the playground with its ideal location in the heart of a natural area.
Planning costs: Landscape architect Friederike Wagner and consultants, 12,000 EUR
Construction costs: SIK Holz (2003 und 2010), Garten- und Landschaftsbau Hansel (2010)
Play area 2003: approx. 45,000 EUR - excluding donations and voluntary work (no funds from flood damage repair)
Forestation 2008 approx. 10,000 EUR - City budget for plants and fencing, pro rata from the sale of the felled wood plus internal labour from the City (Publicly owned Central Technical Services(Regiebetrieb Zentrale Technische Dienste)
Play areas and path clearance 2010: 88,400 EUR -City budget
Maintenance costs: Care, maintenance, minor repairs, safety inspections
per annum approx. 6,900 EUR