Breda has already established a culture of citizen participation a long time ago and has gained broad experience with different approaches and tools. The project GreenQuays does not just benefit from this favourable situation but is itself an output of citizens engagement. In earlier public events to re-open the quays of the river Mark, citizens have voiced that they wish to have a much greener design than the one proposed by the municipality (see also: Finding the right design for nature-inclusive quays). However, as the river underneath flows in the densely built-up city centre, this undertaking won’t be easy to implement given the limited space. Nevertheless, this residents’ request led the municipality to rethink the options and to develop innovative ideas with the GreenQuays project, which is the pilot stretch for the broader revitalisation and daylighting of the river Mark (see also: Enabling nature to take over – green quay walls in Breda).
Hence, Breda was well on its way to design the area with its citizens when the COVID 19 crisis kicked in and hampered the participation and co-creation activities. The team sized the chances and switched to online tools, but although it tried hard to include interactive elements, these events have been more an information activity than real co-creation. At least, citizens have been kept in the loop.
With slowly withdrawing COVID 19 restrictions, smaller face to face interactions became possible again. Unfortunately, at that point the detailed design process of the GreenQuays had already been finished. Thanks to the earlier participation and the online communication, the design has indeed become greener. And there is more to do. GreenQuays is “just” a stretch of 175m of the new river Mark and its positive impacts on citizens life will only unfold if it is embedded in the broader activities of daylighting the river and in Breda’s journey to become a city in the park as part of the city's environmental vision for 2040. Hence, the project team is in full speed to engage the citizens. How can they grab best their ideas?