The climate is changing and we are all going to notice the consequences, all over the world. There are plenty of plans to prepare for this or even to reverse the process. But what can you, as an alderman of a medium-sized city in the Netherlands, contribute? What is the impact of a climate measure on a local level? Rik Thijs, Alderman Climate & Energy in Eindhoven, takes us through his dilemmas, his choices, and his ambitions once a month.
As an alderman, I often have the honor of presenting beautiful plans that many people have been working on for a long time. The first drafts and thoughts were already started before I became an alderman. Think of the new Victoria Park or Station Square.
But sometimes, really rarely, as an alderman you can take the first steps in a historic decision by the municipality. Literally the first steps. A year ago, together with fellow alderman Yasin Torunoglu, I walked through the gates of the Wielewaal estate. The Wielewaal had been up for sale for a long time. There have been potential buyers in recent years, including the municipality, but the sale was not settled.
One more time, we wanted to try if it would be possible for us to buy the historic estate. An estate that was owned by the Philips family until 2005. A unique opportunity to buy 142 hectares of green space to guarantee the quality of green for the city and its inhabitants for decades to come. Of course, with the task of making the estate public for all Eindhoven residents. With the purchase, we ensure ourselves of a large green park that is three times as large as the Vondelpark, more or less the size the Hyde Park in London. And we have succeeded!
I am happy with the development that we are now finally starting to see green as a ‘need-to-have’ instead of a ‘nice-to-have’. With the future growth of Eindhoven, this is extremely important. And of course, I can’t wait to extend my daily run to the Wielewaal. Although I’ll have to do some more training then, because the estate is so immense.
Unfortunately, the estate is not immediately a public space. We also want to do this together with the residents. In the coming years, we can combine forces and ideas to make this estate belong to all of us. So that everyone can enjoy the beautiful nature and cultural history that this estate is rich in.
The City Council has agreed to this historic purchase. On March 16, the local elections will be held, after which I hope, as alderman, to be able to take the next steps in making this a park for all of us. It is projects like this that show that municipal politics matters, that you make decisions that you can look back on with pride 50 years from now. And that I can then think back to the first steps I took on the estate in January 2021. A wonderful conclusion to this period as alderman and hopefully a wonderful beginning to more.
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