Spreepark to become a culture park: treetop path instead of roller coaster

Excavations are underway at the Spreepark in Planterwald for what will later be a culture park. What it will look like is disputed in the coalition.

Visitors at the "Day of the Open Spreepark" in September 2019 Photo: dpa

The first excavators are working at Spreepark in Planterwald. On the 2.3-hectare former amusement park, which has been deserted since 2002, lines for water, electricity, gas and Internet are being laid. According to the state-owned Grun Berlin GmbH, which has managed the site since 2016, development work for what will become an arts and culture park is expected to last until September 2021. Guided tours of the site, which have been popular for the past three years, will continue to be offered, Grun Berlin GmbH said.

The construction work overshadows a red-red-green dispute over the future of the Spreepark. Only the Greens still stand by the concept of a family-oriented arts and culture park developed with citizen participation from 2016 to 2018. The two red parties are moving in opposite directions.

Flashback: In 2016, citizens’ dialogues started about the future of the land bought back from the state of Berlin. At the time, district mayor Oliver Igel (SPD) had formulated the policy guidelines as follows: "This should not be another carnival for a million visitors, but an inner-city green oasis for families and artists. The visitors should also not arrive by the thousands by car." Andreas Geisel, also an SPD member and then Senator for Urban Development, also gave a clear rejection to a new edition of a carnival. "To be profitable, the area is too small after all," he told the taz in 2016.

Hundreds of Berliners came to the dialog forums. In 2017, Grun Berlin GmbH presented the vision of an art and culture park. In the ruins of the rides, new forms of experience are to be created that also incorporate nature in one of the last inner-city forests: The remains of the roller coaster are to become a treetop path. The maze and ghost train will become giant slides. In addition, there will be a 3-D cinema and other cabarets. The only ride to rotate again will be the 45-meter-high Ferris wheel, surrounded by an expanse of water in which it will be reflected.

A concept from yesterday: fencing in

The fact that everything has been dormant again since 2017 is due to the fact that the development plan is being drawn up in the Treptow-Kopenick district. In the process, expert opinions must clarify, for example, which routes visitors should take to get to the park in the middle of the forest and by which means of transport. The plan is to be available in 2021.

But the SPD and the Left Party no longer support the project. For the left-wing Katalin Gennburg, the idea of fencing off public land and exploiting it through Grun Berlin GmbH is "a concept from the day before yesterday". Her premise: no fence around the Spreepark. No entrance fee. "It should become a creative place for urban productions of the club scene and artists, similar to Tempelhofer Feld." Artists should be given spaces and budgets here.

According to Gennburg, because of the Left’s criticism of the concept, the main committee of the House of Representatives imposed a budget freeze on the Spreepark in 2019, which was only ended this summer due to corona. Otherwise, the excavators could not work. With the planning law, the left proposal would be compatible.

Temporary hype

The SPD wants exactly the opposite, namely a park for amusement rides. At least temporarily. That would also be possible under planning law. But it is exactly what Igel and Geisel had rejected in 2016. The SPD member of parliament Robert Schaddach explains this to the taz with the unfortunate situation of the showman industry in the Corona crisis. Since the end of the Christmas markets, they no longer have a chance to earn money. Why not a temporary carnival at the old location in the Spreepark? "The idea was born at the beginning of August," says Schaddach, who also heads the district’s tourism association. Showmen are members of the association, and Schaddach sees himself as their advocate. "They demonstrated in front of Kopenick City Hall for performance opportunities." That’s when, according to Schaddach, district mayor Igel suggested temporarily using the orphaned Spreepark for the purpose. The same Igel, who in 2016 did not want to make a carnival, but a green oasis from the Spreepark.

Schaddach had written to the Senate Department for Urban Development. He started an online petition. Schaddach sees the fact that the excavators came a few days later as a reaction to his online petition. "Grun Berlin GmbH is probably afraid that the hype will be successful. Then it becomes visible that their elitist art park is not wanted," he tells the taz. Because excavation work and children’s carousels at the same time is of course not possible.

"What does the SPD care about their chatter from yesterday?" is the comment of Harald Moritz, a Green constituency deputy. "The citizens in the district of Planterwald don’t want a carnival, but a small family-friendly park that preserves nature." He also said a fence around the park, which the Left Party does not want, should be his opinion, because there has been a lot of vandalism to the old rides and there are sources of accidents such as swamp areas and rotten trees.

Other locations for showmen

"You can discuss entrance fees," says Moritz, a pragmatic politician. "But we can’t do an about-face after the citizen dialogue." He also likes the concept of reinterpreting the history of the site. Because of the difficult development and traffic safety, he doesn’t think much of a temporary shindig. Treptow-Kopenick’s city councilor for construction, Rainer Holmer (SPD), agrees. He advises the showmen to examine other locations.

Grun Berlin GmbH denies to the taz any connection between the online petition and the start of the development work. According to a spokeswoman, the work had been planned and put out to tender for years and was actually supposed to start in April.

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