GREEN CITIES EUROPE
THE NETHERLANDS WINS THIRD EDITION OF THE PRESTIGIOUS EUROPEAN GREEN CITIES AWARD
After Beringen in Belgium in 2020, Nantes in France in 2021, Alkmaar in the Netherlands wins the 2022 Green Cities Europe Award with its inspiring “Greening & Biodiversity” program. The happy winners were awarded at the Victoires du paysage in Paris.
Mini parks for biodiversity, in Alkmaar, Netherlands
A Quick-Win method to transform local urban spaces from grey into green.
Surrounded by polders and crossed by canals, Alkmaar is a charming Dutch city, famous for its cheese market. It is also a dynamic city, which chose a local pragmatic approach to address our current environmental challenges. Knowing that plant solutions are effective to fight urban warming, flooding risks and loss of biodiversity, Alkmaar is developing its “Greening & Biodiversity” program. In just a few months various neglected sealed spaces were transformed into local green oases.
Alkmaar objective is to create 50,000 m² green spaces in seven years. An opportunity which Stadswerk072, the organization responsible for the management and maintenance of Alkmaar, has grabbed with both hands. First step was to identify all sealed spaces that can benefit from a quick transformation: small squares, banks, car parks and roundabouts. These watertight and lifeless areas are then de-sealed to restore soil permeability. Important is also that all projects actively involve local residents in the planning. Last but not least, the plant selection needs to focus on biodiversity, with a large variety of trees, berry-bearing shrubs, wild flowers, flowering bulbs and perennials.
In two years, 50% of the objective has already been achieved with several mini-parks, urban flower meadows, newly planted banks and biodiversity friendly roundabouts. These targeted and easy-to- implement interventions have had a decisive impact for the city and its inhabitants, not only improving quality of life and local biodiversity, but also restoring the natural water cycle.
Alkmaar’s “Greening & Biodiversity” project thrilled the European jury because it shows how plant-based solutions can easily provide local mitigation to our current environmental challenges. This “Quick Win” approach transforms the city from gray to green, based on a four pillars local action: de-sealing, involving residents, planting and welcoming biodiversity. Alkmaar’s approach is one that can be followed by really any European city to green the living environment without excuses, restrictive rules or delays.