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39 Goffert Park

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In the 1930s sixty hectares of forest and heath were converted into one vast city park. The construction was carried out by Nijmegen’s unemployed. The park has playing fields, a stadium, a teahouse and a petting zoo. The new Goffert Park opened to the public on July 8, 1939.

Nijmegen, as many other Dutch districts, was hit hard by the worldwide economic crisis in the 1930s. Unemployment rose to 29%, but in the lower part of city it reached 50%. The support costs rose alarmingly. The government tried to keep people working by setting up large water and road construction projects, park construction and dike reinforcement. Often the work was heavy physical labour and the workers were paid a maximum of 70% of their normal salaries. Such projects had been deployed earlier in Nij_megen to build the Maas-Waal canal and the bridge over the river Waal.

The plans for Goffert Park were part of the General Expansion Plan for Nijmegen, which had been drafted by city planner A. Siebers in the 1930s. The expansion plan included a network of ring roads and radial roads that connected to the canals round the old city. Neighbourhoods were to be given greenbelts, parks and playgrounds. In the southwest of the city, surrounding the old Goffert farm, a large public park was to be made for recreational and sporting activities. Similarly in other parts of the Netherlands parks such as the Amsterdamse Bos and the Haagse Zuider Park were being constructed. Major J.A.H. Steinweg insisted that the government financed the construction of the park as part of the unemployment relief effort. In the spring of 1935 more than 160 people started working for 35 cents per hour. Even though the plans incorporated the natural shapes and slopes of the terrain, 600,000 cubic meters of sand had to be removed. To provide work for as many people as possible the sand was moved using shovels and wheelbarrows instead of mechanical equipment.

The hardest job by far was digging the six meter deep pit for the stadium and this excavation became known as the ‘blood-pit’. Over the years this stadium has hosted many concerts and events and it became the home of NEC, Nijmegen’s football club. The stadium also has athletics and cycle tracks. The park and stadium were thoroughly renovated and modernised in 1999, sixty years after the opening.
Nijmegen and unemployment
The digging of the ‘blood-pit’ for the Goffert stadium, 1937 (RAN)

39 bouwgoffertstadion.jpg

Source: Dolly Verhoeven, in: De Canon van Nijmegen, Uitgeverij Vantilt (Nijmegen 2009)
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