The first Bibian Mentel Playground, at Sportpark Loosdrecht, was festively opened on Wednesday, July 6. The Playground, consisting of two pumptracks - these are tracks on which you can 'cross over with anything that has wheels' - and a playground, is designed so that people with and without physical challenges can play together.
At the opening dozens of children and teens were present to try out the courts. Ty (13), Jazz (14) and Reeve (8) together with aldermen Stan Poels (Wijdemeren municipality) and Karin van Hunnik (Hilversum municipality), Mentelity Foundation director Edwin Spee and Maude, Bibian Mentel's mother, opened the playground. The Loosdrecht brothers then immediately dove onto the court. Pros also gave demonstrations and clinics, accompanied by rousing beats from the Red Bull Truck. There were several food trucks where snacks and drinks could be obtained.
One of Bibian's dreams.
Ty, Jazz and Reeve knocked on the door of the municipality of Wijdemeren with their initiative in 2019. The brothers were introduced to a pumptrack during a vacation and were so enthusiastic about it that they wanted one in their own hometown. They set up a campaign to collect as many as 800 signatures. Bibian Mentel also saw their video and immediately decided to embrace the initiative. At the Mentelity Foundation, the idea of creating inclusive playgrounds had been around for some time.
Initially it did not succeed in finding a suitable location in Wijdemeren. When Hilversum came into the picture at the end of 2021 with a location at sports park Loosdrecht, things suddenly went fast. Everything fell into place. The cooperation between both municipalities and the Mentelity Foundation proved fruitful, because a few months later the first shovel could be put into the ground.
"This is something Bibian would have thought was so incredibly cool," says her husband, and Mentelity Foundation Director Edwin Spee. "That all children, regardless of their physical challenges, can play together. That was one of Bibian's dreams."
One of the biggest jobs in Europe
A pumptrack is a paved dirt track through which people can step, bike, skate or board, in short, with anything that has wheels. Spee: "Our pumptrack has a special track that is wheelchair accessible and for beginners to practice on. It is one of the largest tracks in Europe and also still meets the requirements of the cycling federation."
Eventually throughout the Netherlands
The Bibian Mentel Playground is located on 't Jagerspaadje in Loosdrecht, a stone's throw from Bibian and Edwin's house. "The fact that the first Playground is practically in our backyard is quite special," said Spee. "Eventually we hope to open playgrounds like this throughout the Netherlands so that many children can enjoy them."
The playground is located at the Sportpark Loosdrecht, within the municipal boundary of Wijdemeren, but owned by Hilversum. Cooperation between the municipalities of Hilversum and Wijdemeren was therefore obvious. Stan Poels, Wijdemeren alderman, is extremely proud: "Thanks to the cooperation between all parties, the Bibian Mentel Playground has become a place where everyone can play and exercise to their hearts' content. We are extremely happy with this."
Karin van Hunnik, Hilversum alderman, is also happy with the result: "The central location of the playground will attract many youth from both municipalities and it is a real asset to be able to play sports outdoors. I am pleased that together with our neighboring municipality of Wijdemeren we were able to contribute to this beautiful plan for this inclusive playground."
The second Bibian Mentel Playground will be realized this year in Axel (Municipality of Terneuzen, Zeeland). Yesterday the plans were officially approved by the college, so construction can begin this spring. That the Playground will come about is partly thanks to the efforts of 11-year-old Luca Verschuuren.
In fact, Luca is a big fan of pumptrack tracks and wanted a track near him as well. And so, together with his mother and some enthusiastic friends, he started a fundraising campaign to make this possible. After many different actions to raise money and the support of the municipality, cooperation was also sought with the Mentelity Foundation. Mainly because Luca believes it is important that the track be accessible to everyone. "From small to large, and for people with or without a physical challenge! We worked hard for it and gave it our all. This would never have been possible without all our sponsors and all those lovely people who supported us in any way," said Luca, who is overjoyed that his dream is coming true.
The Bibian Mentel Playground consists of two pumptrack tracks and an inclusive playground, realized with Velosolutions and Yalp, partners of the Mentelity Foundation. "The Playgrounds are truly places where young and old, and people with or without physical challenges can play together," said Edwin Spee, director of the Mentelity Foundation. "We are very happy that we can now realize the second Bibian Mentel Playground in Axel. That it came about with the initiative of Luca, who sees how important it is that everyone should be able to play, makes it extra nice."
Photos from the opening can be viewed here.