Gwij STEGEN, Miguel BERTELOOT and Mieke SCHAUVLIEGE
Institution: Groendienst, Departement of Urban Development, City of Ghent – Belgium
Keywords: Green Pole, Peace Forests, Forest for the New-borns, Natural Cemetery, Mosaic Landscape, Participation, Accessibility
The city of Ghent (Belgium) has set itself an ambitious goal to ensure that each inhabitant has an area of more than 100 ha within 5 km from his or her doorstep. These large areas are called green poles and the Gentbrugse Meersen is one of the four green poles in Ghent. Once completed, the Gentbrugse Meersen will approximately be 240 ha in size, 170 ha of which has already been established. We foresee at least 70 ha of forest, combining mostly newly created forest, along with forested patches present prior to our developments.
The density of a city such as Ghent, with 1.600 inhabitants/km², leads to the need for quiet and green areas where one can escape the hectic city life. At the same time, we are challenged to incorporate the interests of a highly divergent public and ensure their return to the green pole. The Gentbrugse Meersen accommodates areas for nature conservation; community-gardening; protected heritage; people relaxing or walking their dog but also areas where small and large children can play surrounded by a green environment; infrastructure for guiding people through the area; safe and environmentally incorporated constructions for children to play; areas for bio-farming (where city-kids can come into close contact with cattle).
Here, I show how we shape the newly created forests in such a way that we increase the biological value of the green pole but at the same time provide an answer to the different social demands and needs of urban green areas. By spontaneous forestation, creating a mosaic landscape managed by grazing cattle, organizing orchestrated forestation events (leading to our forest of the new-borns), emphasizing the need for global peace with a peace-monument in our peace-forest or by designing the forest in such a way that we create a calm and serene location where people can say their last goodbyes while they burying the ashes of the recently deceased among the trees, we try to provide a place for everyone, which can be used by everyone. By increasing participation, emotional affinity and physical connectivity with the city centre for low-impact modes of transportation, we aim at encouraging citizens to return and enjoy their piece of nature.
While we are approaching the third and final phase of the entire project (creating the most northern part), we hope to create an urban jungle in the long run, hence we advertise the Gentbrugse Meersen as “To each their own kind of WILD”.