Particapatory design of areas for nature play

In West Zeeuws-Vlaanderen (West Zeelandic Flanders) the large area Waterdunen, which is part of the coastal reinforcement plan, is developed as a nature reserve and recreation area. Two parts of the reserve will be designed as areas for nature play. This is a natural setting where mainly children and even adults can play. They can change it, discover plants and animals and experience the tidal working. This is most attractive feature of nature play in Waterdunen: water comes in and out with the tides, which creates great opportunities to play with water, mud and sand.

Nature play challenges, stimulates to move and create and is an incentive for children to explore their boundaries and abilities. It is more than a natural playground; it touches many social domains, such as health, wellbeing and integration.   

Nature play is important for many people, regardless of where they come from, regardless of their age and abilities. The area should appeal to children and adults, people with or without a handicap, people from nearby, schools from a broader region and tourists. : That is why the area is designed in a participatory way. All stakeholders are invited to contribute to several stages of the design process. The participants and the designers are the co-creators. Their role does not stop when the area for nature play is ready for use.  They can also maintain the area and the organize activities.

Waterdunen is a special region. In a first meeting, stakeholders have dreamt of their ideal area for nature play. They indicated the tidal aspect and the mud flats as the most spectacular features, but also pointed at the diversity of wet and dry landscapes, the presence of many birds and the attraction of plants: shrubbery to climb, plants to eat and to use as material to make things. They saw opportunities for children and adults of all abilities to play together. Waterdunen is excellently suited for activities like climbing, sliding and crawling from land to water and back, building dams and digging gullies.

In the next few months the designers and stakeholders will further elaborate these and other ideas and design an unique spot together.

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