Collectively creating and safeguarding green spaces

As a consequence of climate change, extreme weather events are occurring increasingly frequently. They also have a great impact in cities. Municipalities therefore need to take action, preserve green belts and introduce adaptation measures to prepare their cities for changing climatic conditions. To enable them to provide support for the appropriate organisation of this endeavour, RWTH Aachen University is doing research in its CoProGrün (co-production of urban green spaces) project, in collaboration with its partners at the Ruhr Regional Association and South Westphalia University. The project is researching how green belts can be created to be more sustainable and attractive and at the same time be preserved for the long term by involving civil society and agriculture.

Parks, allotment gardens, woods, arable land … urban green spaces do not merely serve to provide citizens with relaxation from everyday life. They also make a significant contribution to creating a balanced climate in cities. Green belts are particularly important as cool air channels and buffers against strong rainfall and in terms of absorbing pollutants, providing a cooling effect and producing cold air, especially in times of changing climate conditions. Factors ranged against this are social and demographic development and tight municipal budgets, which lead to pressure on land use and endanger green belts. The CoProGrün research project therefore aims to raise people’s awareness of the need to create green belts and to demonstrate their social, ecological and economic value, thereby strengthening support for preserving green spaces.

Engine for progress:

  • Safeguarding green belts reduces the effects of climate change
  • Creates new social, ecological and economic value
  • Research results also help other regions
  • Social innovation: the green belt as a vibrant urban space supported by local citizens
  • From consumers to producers: co-production on the green belt as a public commodity

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Photo: CoProGrün, Axel Timpe

Oak forests in the eastern Emscher Valley: the Im Siesack nature reserve.

Shared use increases quality of life and sense of identity

The East Emscher Valley green belt in the Emscher Landscape Park in the Ruhr region serves as the venue for the project. It comprises the green and open spaces from Dortmund to Castrop-Rauxel and Waltrop surrounding the river Emscher and its tributaries. For the CoProGrün project, the citizens are not just ordinary users, but are involved as co-producers. Amongst other things, there are plans to create community gardens based on the principle of urban gardening, as well as wine-growing areas on the slagheaps. For example, fields are emerging where people pick their own vegetables as part of a community approach to farming. As well as improving their quality of life, this also strengthens the citizens’ sense of identity.

Transferring the model project to other regions

The experiences in eastern Emscherland are intended to demonstrate which measures and formats can be used to get people actively involved in the co-production of urban green spaces. This includes talking to farmers, allotment gardeners, pet and small animal breeding associations, and also recreational sportsmen, collecting their interests and jointly developing model projects. These are then investigated and optimised in terms of their feasibility, the added value they bring to the green belt and their quality of design, before they are jointly implemented. The project is examining the transferability of the measures to other regions in order to formulate an action plan that can be used across the whole of Germany.

The project is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research under the “Innovative municipalities” funding initiative (funding ID number 033L172).

Photo: CoProGrün

“The green belts of the Ruhr Valley are a natural asset that yields new benefits in the challenging context of climate change: the green and open spaces reduce temperature peaks and draw cool air into city centres, thereby lessening heat stress for both people and the environment. CoProGrün is developing ideas and projects, in collaboration with the people in the Ruhr Valley, on how this natural asset can be safeguarded and enhanced.”

Dr. Axel Timpe, Scientific Assistant at the Institute of Landscape Architecture at RWTH Aachen University and CoProGrün Project Coordinator

Partners and sponsors

  • Lehrstuhl für Landschaftsarchitektur, RWTH Aachen University
  • Regionalverband Ruhr, Abt. Konzeption Emscher Landschaftspark
  • FH Südwestfalen, Fachbereich Agrarwirtschaft in Soest
  • die urbanisten e.V.
  • LWK NRW, Geschäftsber. 2 – Standortentwicklung, Ländlicher Raum
  • Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF)