Schansbroek lies near the source zone of the Stiemerbeek River and near the coal mine of Waterschei. Former mining activities severely affected natural water management contributing to pollution and flooding for local residents. This was partly related to a change in the topography of the area caused by the mining operations. To protect local residences, rainfall and groundwater has had to be pumped into the Stiemerbeek River. The hydrological impact has also caused water shortage for natural wetland areas negatively impacting the biodiversity of these areas.
The Schansbroek area was also ‘adopted’ by local residents for unofficial grow-your-own activities. The area has since been redesigned in collaboration with local citizens/workers. The aim was to create a multifunctional neighbourhood park for recreation, biodiversity and to restore water management. The 2013 design plan included measures to recreate a ‘wet ecotope’ by restoring a natural dam and ponds, and transforming an artificial reservoir from the former mine. Local citizens requested allotments, children’s play areas, cycling/hiking trails, picnic and meeting areas which were all included in the design.
The new park created enhances the aesthetics of the area and strengthen links to the site making it more attractive to residents and workers at the neighbouring Thorpark. The model for community engagement will be scaled-up for the entire Stiemerbeck valley.