According to current numbers from the European Office for Statistics, over 3.4 million children in all of Germany are unable to travel anywhere for a week or longer during their holidays due to financial hardship. The 9,177 children in Kiel between the ages of 0 and 15 who receive support according to SGBII (State supported unemployment benefit) are probably particularly affected by this lack of travel because these kids are dependent on the city offering them an adequate infrastructure for reasonable recreational activities and education.
Admittedly, during Kiel Week the city and many sponsors do a lot for even the youngest of citizens in Kiel, like events at the Krusenkoppel* (an open-air venue in Kiel) and at the Camp24/7. But what about the other 50 weeks of the year? How does our provincial capital take care of the youngest? With this question in mind, we examined the “inventory of public playgrounds 2015” of the city of Kiel in detail.
Numbers and scope
According to this document, there are 248 playgrounds. This sounds like plenty at first, since these play/sporting grounds need to be taken care of, maintained, and repaired if necessary. For this, the city has allocated and spent about 439.000€ per year. And judging from the budget for 2018, this will not change.
It is supposed to be nine square meters per child between six and seventeen years of age. For this, the city assumes that each playground has an effective radius of 300m for playground and 1000m for each sporting ground. You can see the current distribution of playgrounds in the picture. With this background information a closer look at the distribution of playgrounds seems useful.
West and east
According to these numbers, a child in the Schilksee district of Kiel has 51.90m² of play- and sports ground at their disposal, while a child in the Neumühlen-Dietrichsdorf district only has 4.72m² , which is less than ten percent of what kids on the western side of the city have. Other parts of the city show a similar picture, like Gaarden, Meimersdorf or Kronsburg, where the target of 9m² is far away from reality. And this won’t change in 2018 due to missing investments, according to the budget.
This disparity gets even worse when you compare the offered play area with what children of parents who receive unemployment benefits have available to them in that region. While there were only 47 of those children in Schilksee (as of March 31st 2016), Neumühlen-Dietrichsdorf had 746 of them, Gaarden-Ost 1.757 and Mettenhof 2,514 children. So, those who would really need public playgrounds are only able to use around one tenth of the playgrounds of their age-mates at the western part of the city (in a direct comparison between Dietrichsdorf and Schilksee).
Neither state nor federal law stipulate that kids have a right to a playground. However, the constitution allows us the right of participation – this includes our children. Also, according to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has been German law since 1992:
(1) In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.
This also includes building and development regulations. According to the Bundesbaugesetz (BauBG) (German Building Code), the needs of children and teenagers in regards to sports, recreation and relaxation needs to be considered. And since children are especially in need of protection and support, they need to get enough playgrounds and sporting grounds, in Neumühlen-Dietrichsdorf just as much as anywhere else.
In addressing this situation, Beate Goffin, the head of the Office for Facilities for Children and Youths, said: “While in many parts of the city there is more than enough space for these playgrounds, there is a need in some parts to find new areas for this…”. In response to Beate’s statement, there is a law in the Landesbauordnung that says that playgrounds need to be in the immediate area of large housing projects built by developers. This however only applies to small children that are not in the school system yet.
Due to the addition of privately operated playgrounds the amount of playgrounds for small children gets adjusted a bit between east and west.
The question now is, if the quality of the privately operated playgrounds is comparable to quality of the publicly operated. Therefore we had a look at some of those privately run playgrounds at the eastside. In the infobox we summed up chosen playgrounds, which partially show some existing differences in quality between privately and publicly operated playgrounds.
In September of 2016 a new position was created to manage the planning of playground areas. According to the Office for Facilities for Children and Youths of Kiel, this is meant to get a proper concept for play and sporting grounds for Kiel that not only tries to fulfill the statistical numbers, but also takes into account the needs of the various ages and interests of the kids. Let’s just hope that this will help with the overall situation.
*Krusenkoppel: the second largest open-air area of Schleswig-Holstein with more than 2,000 seats and a center of the line of play for festivities of any kind.
During the visit of the playgrounds, we used DIN EN 1176 as a basis for evaluating: “EN standards 1176-1 to 7, which are valid throughout Europe, regulate the (safety) technical requirements for playground equipment and their safety testing, inspection and maintenance.” (Http://www.bdja.org/files/din_en_1176-pdf.pdf)
Nice, well maintained, large playground with everything a child’s heart desires, and plenty of seating for parents. It has a soccer ground, beach volleyball and of course a sand pit. We were surprised to find such a good and interestingly playful playground. The size of the playing area is particularly striking. Here, children can play their hearts out, and test and learn about their limits.
The publicly accessible but privately run playground at Thorwaldsenpfad offers a different picture. At this neglected facility, there are rusted climbing frames, destroyed benches and defective swings that are no longer usable. These are definitely hazards for children. At this playground, the safety of children is not guaranteed.
This playground has a climbing net, swings, and two rockers in a large sandbox. Particularly noticeable is the fact that this playground in Neumühlen-Dietrichsdorf is only visible from the two access roads. Therefore, if a supervisor does not happen to be on the scene, no one sees what is going on. The bushes and shrubs surrounding the playground are neglected, littered and conceal any view from the outside. In an emergency, no one would be able to see the incident from the outside and could not provide any help.
A very well equipped playground, with play equipment not just for the little ones. It’s a spacious complex with volleyball net, football field and lots of green around. In the summer, it’s a popular place for grilling, relaxing and romping. This place is used a lot because it has very good playing possibilities. A small ride-on excavator, a net swing, and swings for young and old. This place has everything you need and is well maintained.
Lüderitzstraße, between Verdieckstrasse and Woermannstrasse, – the inner courtyard
A slide, a swing, a seesaw, tennis-table, a horse rocker and a sandbox, surrounded by bushes and trees in the middle of a backyard. The playground equipment was usable, but with a lot of corners and edges where children could be injured, overall it is in a bad, inadequate condition. During our visit, parents sat on the tables because the benches were partly overcrowded. An empty shopping cart in the middle of the square was the final ornament of the playground (in an ironical way). Renewals would be desirable here. Anyone who is responsible for traffic safety obligation for this place should realize that there are a lot of hazards here. The safety requirements as defined in DIN EN 1176 are not fulfilled. We recommend that parents who take their children to play here should turn to those responsible, so that these grievances can be remedied.
An example of how a playground should look is the Gutenberg playground. At this site, there is a youth club with numerous things to offer. This is why supervision of children is ensured temporarily. In addition to the existing, well-maintained devices, they are planning for further additions (statement of a youth club staff). Among other things, there is a working water pump, which invites to play in mud. There is also a small basketball court. The Gutenberg playground is a welcoming place, one which many children would also like on the east bank. This place shows what is feasible, and what should be done.