Hamaren Activity Park
The park surrounds a kindergarten, schools, and a care home for older people, potentially addressing community needs across the age spectrum. Physical activity in nature is an effective way to improve health and well-being.
The surrounding nature is stunning but inaccessible to many people, even the locals who cannot often benefit from walks through the high mountains, deep fjords and hilly terrain. This is typical for inhabitants of many small municipalities. Older people, families with small children, people with different abilities and non-natives who may not be familiar with rough nature, find it challenging to enter the natural surrounding and benefit from the health-promoting activities and sensory experiences. The Municipality of Fyresdal wanted to do something about this by creating a universally designed activity park.
The municipality invited the entire population of Hamaren to input their ideas, needs and perspectives at the start-up meeting where a universal design approach was central. This resulted in strong user engagement and a sense of community ownership from the outset. In turn, the project management team stretched themselves to meet most of the residents’ wishes and even gave the them responsibility for the design of various elements such as information signs, lean-tos and the BMX park.
In terms of the immense impact on the community and user involvement, the project was exemplary. For example, the contract was open to local craftsmen and companies based in the municipality’s business park ensuring a local sense of pride and a high-quality outcome. The kindergarten made information signs and younger people felt ownership of the lean-tos, the BMX park and other solutions through schemes such as Ungt Entreprenørskap (Young Entrepreneurship).
The municipality said they have benefitted enormously from including people in the process, noting that: “Everyone says it’s for both you and me”.
The activity park was finished after three years, but started to be used after the second year. Some of the picturesque headland was inaccessible before the gangway was built and together with a bridge which is bolted to the mountain, now creates stop-off points to access information and enjoy the stunning natural vistas. The scheme is inclusive of wheelchairs, and this makes it easier for everyone. Children and young people can use the space alongside those with functional impairments, turning the park into a popular place across the generations, creating a communal space regardless of age or ability. As well as creating positive impact on public health, this park has raised the level of social connection and cohesion for residents and visitors in the local community.
As a result of very high degree of community involvement and a sense of shared ownership, the park is kept tidy and quiet. Anti-social activities such as loitering by moped drivers, noisy parties and littering have been reduced and put to shame by the community. This indirect effect impressed the local municipality as well as project management team.
Since the park is centrally located, it has had a positive ripple effect on the turnover of the many small, unique shops in the area. The entrance is situated right next to the care home and the kindergarten ensuring that both older people and children can safely access and use the park without assistance. This is incredibly important for individuals who would otherwise be spending a lot of time involuntarily sitting indoors.
Hamaren Activity Park demonstrates that universal design can create a solution for everyone, even when designing in challenging public spaces in rural areas. It is about considering and caring for all citizens, regardless of their age or ability.