The shutdown of the mining industry left the western district of Hamm suffering from economic hardship, abandoned land, and loss of identity. The city collaborated with residents to develop more than 540 acres of land into a public park that physically and emotionally reconnected residents.
The last coal mine in Hamm closed in 2010, leaving the city’s western district, which relied on the industry for employment and economic security, divided and disadvantaged. Previously united by reliable work, the diverse community faced pressures exacerbated by cultural differences and economic hardship. The large abandoned industrial area — with a wall around it — also became a barrier between their district and the rest of the city, contributing to the low morale and a sense of isolation within the community.
City leadership collaborated with residents to transform more than 540 acres of abandoned industrial area into a public park. A citizens’ council was formed to oversee planning of the park, made up of stakeholders from neighborhood associations, clubs, religious groups, and representatives from city districts bordering the park. The city also offered easily accessible opportunities for all residents to participate, including forums held within the community and information booths in the neighborhoods around the mine site. Finally, targeted efforts were made to include children and adolescents in the process, and they helped conceive of and design elements of the park, including the playgrounds.
Twenty-thousand citizens were involved in the creation of Lippepark. The completed 2 1/2- mile green corridor connects western district neighbors to each other and opens the district to other neighborhoods in Hamm. Not only has the park lifted the physical and psychological barrier between communities, it has increased property values of homes near the park by approximately 20 percent and improved the neighborhood’s reputation. The playgrounds are frequently in use by children from the area and community investment in the park is high, evidenced by low levels of vandalism.
Although the development of the park has been completed, the citizens’ council has become a permanent fixture of Hamm and continues to be involved in policy and event planning for the park. The city succeeded in its mission of creating a park for the people and from the people. They continue their efforts in a neighborhood across town where they are working with residents and the mine owner to redevelop another former mine into a community hub for retail, residential, and shared working space.
“With the input of personnel, money and time, you can achieve the best results, the most satisfied citizens, and a great win for democracy in our city. This is the future of urban society.”
– Thomas Hunsteger-Petermann, Mayor of Hamm