Stuttgart renovated its five green fields for half a million euros. They invite you to play and run. However, themes of local recreation and nature conservation still sometimes conflict in the forest.
As silly as it may sound, a lot of wood has been moved to the woods in Stuttgart in recent years. In the end, the task was to renovate the five forest courses owned by the city of Stuttgart. “Over the past few decades, city employees have built and designed the playgrounds themselves,” says Benjamin Schuldt, a forester teacher in Stuttgart. But then many of the employees retired, and not all forestry jobs could be filled. For this reason, there was not enough capacity for a long time, as a result of which TÜV found significant flaws in 2013: more than half of the playground equipment had to be removed.
The city decided to rehabilitate all five woodland playgrounds. “I spent a lot of money on this, a total of half a million euros,” says Scholdt, who started alone as a forest teacher in Stuttgart in October 2016 and can now count on three employees. There is still a vacancy. “Not only did we replace playground equipment, but we increased it and invested heavily throughout.” All forest pitches are inspected once a week, plus there are quarterly and annual major checks.
The forest as a supplier of raw materials “okay”
As with all other stadiums in Stuttgart – there are over 500 – many aspects played a role in the conceptual redesign: “The themes of inclusion, diversity and climate change are very important,” says Schuldt. Playgrounds should be accessible to everyone, offer something for all children and care should be taken when creating shade and water. “It was especially important for us to have play equipment for the older kids,” Schuldt says. Barbecue areas have been set up for young people, which can of course be used by families as well. In general, care was taken to work with wood and natural materials – hence the large amount of wood that was carried into the forest.
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According to Schuldt, the forest as a resource of raw materials does not do justice to its importance. Being a local recreation area is the most important function that the forest performs in Stuttgart: with a volume of about 6,500 football fields, the forest is the largest local recreation area in Stuttgart. Half of it belongs to the city of Stuttgart, while the other half belongs to the state of Baden-Württemberg. However, this function sometimes conflicts with the idea of nature conservation. This already applies to the forest as a raw material resource: “It’s okay if the resource’s wood is used because it grows again,” says Schuldt. Especially since sometimes there was no other way than cutting trees: in Bürgerwald, for example, beech trees are currently dying on a large scale. “This tree is very dry, and urgently needs to be cut down in order to make the forest climate stable, for example with Douglas fir or oak,” Schuldt says. But people often do not understand that sometimes trees have to be cut down, citizens’ initiatives protest, and the local council no longer dares to say goodbye to cutting down necessary trees.
Nature conservation and local recreation sometimes “bite” each other
Another problem is that there are two and a half thousand veterans in the Stuttgart City Forest who could fall at any time. “But the sacred cows of nature conservation now live in deadwood,” Schuldt says. These include primarily insects, as well as birds, amphibians and mammals.
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Perhaps the fact that nature conservation and local recreation “occasionally bite each other” is most evident in the mountains of rubbish that often accumulate in forest playgrounds. “This is a problem. We have already set up litter boxes, but this has only led to people dumping their home waste there,” Schuldt says. That is why they decided not to do this, especially since the dangers of wildfires are increased due to the litter boxes. A social enterprise was commissioned to collect garbage there from April to November.
Easy access to nature
But the question “how to get out into the woods” is also a “hot topic” the city of Stuttgart is currently researching. “It’s about making it easier to get into nature. It’s of course the limit when everyone is driving to the forest playgrounds. That’s why there are considerations, for example, to enable classrooms and daycare centers to use public transportation freely,” says Schuldt. So often you say: “Go into the woods.”