Holland is not exactly a country of hills and mountains, but rather a big ‘bathtub’ (considering the fact that more then 50% of the land is below sea level). So it is no surprise that most of the Dutch people are not familiar with climbing, mainly because we have nothing to climb on. But that is changing. As climbing is becoming more known and popular, cities are creating opportunities to climb on in the public space. In three major cities in Holland (Rotterdam, Amsterdam and The Hague) bouldering opportunities are created which are free to use and situated in public parks.
A couple of projects have shown that bouldering walls can be easily integrated in the landscape or combined with other objects.
The bouldering wall in the ‘Meerpark‘ in Amsterdam is almost an artwork itself with its bright orange colour and its quite huge dimensions (35 meters long and a maximum height of 3,5m). But the wall is not only designed for climbing but also functions as a retaining wall for the adventure playing hill on the other side. Together both elements create a play and exercise area for young and old. The Hague has combined a skate park with a climbing bouldering facility.
Rotterdam has realized another pilot project. In the ‘Zuiderpark’ a bouldering rock was placed that stands on itself at the edge of a playing field. This artificial rock has a minimal footprint of only a few square meters, and is 4 meters high.
Especially the bouldering facility in Rotterdam shows that a relatively small object can contain many different routes and challenges for the beginner as well as the pro. (There are over 20 documented bouldering routes and countless possible variations.)
Nowadays even manufacturers are coming up with standardized playground equipment in which climbing is incorporated. For example Velopa Omniplay has created the Rox serie: a combination of climbing walls and boulders, often combined with the traditional rope elements.
I am a big fan of these developments, as I like rock-climbing myself. But I also like to believe that developments like these might be (part of) the key to lure kids away from TV/videogames and get them playing outside again.