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Cultures, Communities and Design

Urban Protected Areas – between cities and rural hinterland – First insights from selected European cases
N. Mehnen
11:00 am - 1:00 pm


Worldwide cities, towns and urban agglomerations ‘pressure’ their surrounding lands and often nearby protected areas. Today, more and more so-called Urban Protected Areas, hence National Parks, Nature Parks or Biosphere Reserves located less than 50 kilometres to an urban agglomeration, are designated on the one hand to protect the suburban fringe and rural hinterland, on the other hand to offer the urban population multiple environmental services. The presentation will focus on the relation between the cities, the Urban Protected Area and the unprotected rural areas. First insights from selected European cases will be given. The main focus will be on three German protected areas in the vicinity of major cities: the Saxon Switzerland National Park (Dresden: 561.002 inhabitants), the Biosphere Reserve Bliesgau (Saarbrücken: 183.662 inhabitants, Homburg: 41.790 and St. Ingbert: 35.213) and the Barnim Nature Park (Berlin: 3 775 480 inhabitants). All three protected areas have important landscape characteristics. The Saxon Switzerland National Park (1990, 93,5 km2) is mainly characterized by forests and impressive rock towers. The landscape of Barnim Nature Park (1998, 750 km2) is mainly characterised by large areas of forests and woods as well as various lakes, moors, and river valleys. The Biosphere Reserve Bliesgau (2009, 361,5 km²) can be described as hilly and shaped by expansive fruit tree orchards, beech forests and dry grasslands. The northern region of Bliesgau is an urbanized catchment area with a high population density. The Barnim Nature Park actively advertises its close relation to the city of Berlin (“Oasis of the metropolis”). But also, the Biosphere reserve states it is “…consequently shaped by the presence of cities. The relationship between the city and the country is an important focus of scientific research in the biosphere reserve. The National Saxon Switzerland National Park only state on the homepage the close distance (40 km) to Dresden. All three protected areas have to deal with increasing urban but also rural demands, and policy and planning need to take this into account. Perceptions from local urban and rural communities will be presented. The lessons learnt from Europe in general and from Germany in specific might be useful for other places and contexts.


Dr. Nora Mehnen is scientific researcher at the Spatial Planning and Regional Development Working group at the Leibniz University Hanover in Germany. She is an environmental scientist by training and has obtained her PhD in Groningen in the Netherland. Her research focuses on protected areas and governance practices, urban and regional development, and tourism.