A recently opened urban park in the Dutch city of Tilburg, the Netherlands shows the value of an open and public space in times when schools, sports clubs, bars and restaurants are closed due to the Corona pandemic. Nienke van Boom is a researcher and consultant in policy, culture and spatial development and saw during a stroll with her newborn, how the park was crowded with people.
One year ago, a new urban park was opened in Tilburg, the Netherlands: the Spoorpark. It was the result of a unique participation project where local inhabitants took the initiative to develop a public park with stakeholders such as a beach volley club, scouting and an urban campsite. Today, as schools, sports clubs, bars and restaurants are closed due to the Corona pandemic, it shows the value of an open and public space: a true Social Space.
Today, during my (now) daily stroll with my newborn, the park was crowded with people. Not too crowded though: it was easy to keep a safe distance from each other. Of course some people were sitting very close to each other, at risk of catching the virus. But most people kept a safe distance from each other: there is plenty of seating areas to stay away from others but still feel the presence of other people around you.
Photo by Nienke van Boom
The atmosphere was pleasant, and people seemed relaxed despite that many conversations I heard were about the virus. Children were playing with the water, skating and cycling along the paths. Youngsters were hanging around at the BMX- and skate area, chatting on one of the many benches or playing soccer, rugby or baseball. Elderly were taking a stroll or meeting each other keeping, again, a safe distance. Others were jogging, strolling, chatting or even working on their laptops. There was limited social interaction between strangers, but people did share a smile, a nod or a quick greeting. I found it very comforting to see that the park offers a (relatively) safe space to engage in social life.
Photo by Nienke van Boom
As we are only at the beginning of a scary time full of uncertainties, where many people will feel sad, lonely and scared, I hope the park will continue to offer people a safe space to interact, play and forget about their worries for a bit. I will definitely continue these daily walks for as long as it is considered safe to do so. And I feel lucky to have such a wonderful park nearby. More on the Spoorpark and its unique development process: https://spoorparktilburg.nl/ (in Dutch only)