“We really didn’t expect so many people to come out, but we’re ready and we’ll manage,” said Jan Švaříček, the new deputy mayor of Moravské Budějovice, as a work party got underway as part of the Heřmanský Hill project. On that chilly November day, one hundred local residents planted over 30 cherry trees. The deputy mayor’s words accurately describe the whole process of transforming Heřmanský Hill into an attractive community gathering place.
If you want to see the entire town of Moravské Budějovice at sunset, you have to climb up Heřmanský Hill. Local residents have always come here to enjoy the view, walk their dogs, and go sledding in the winter. Groups also like to come up at sunset, roast sausages over a campfire and sing songs or play the guitar. Yet the site looked unkempt and if one local resident hadn’t taken on basic maintenance, the hill would just keep overgrowing with vegetation. But a group of people associated with the K4 Association, led by the aforementioned Jan Švaříček, felt that the site had great potential to support neighbourhood and community life in the town. Two years ago, they applied for and were awarded a grant in Via’s The Community in Which We Live program.
Via gave them a grant of $17,300 (CZK 400,000), the services of an experienced community engagement practitioner, participation in three workshops and site visits to see similar projects to gain inspiration. A key criteria for the grant is the engagement of local people in the design, planning and physical transformation of the site itself.
How locals strengthened their relationship to Heřmanský Hill
The first planning meeting for the project took place right on Heřmanský Hill. Anyone who was unable to attend had the chance to get involved through a survey, either in hardcopy format or online. By using all available communication channels, the team managed to spark interest in Heřmanský Hill and some 70 residents came to that first meeting in June 2021. 50 people came to a second community meeting held in September 2021, where landscape architect Jan Sulzer presented a site design that drew heavily on the input people had shared at the first meeting. Sulzer’s design for Heřmanský Hill was minimalist, easy to implement and relied on natural materials.
Over the course of 2022, Heřmanský Hill hosted both traditional neighbourhood events and several work days. At the beginning of April, despite cold, rainy weather, more than 50 residents, including children from the T. G. Masaryk Primary School in Moravské Budějovice, helped with tree pruning and clearing. Together they raked last year’s grass, trimmed shrubs, and collected garbage.
Local residents also had the opportunity to give financial donations through an online collection on Darujme.cz, Via’s online giving tool. They achieved the fundraising goal, which was very ambitious, in just a few days, thanks to the generosity of local supporters. “We prepared the fundraising campaign carefully and even made a motivational video, but the result exceeded our wildest expectations. Thanks to this local support, we were able to build a full-scale seating area on Heřmanský Hill according to the landscape architect’s design,” says Jan Švaříček.
It was quite a challenge to find the heavy wooden site furniture that the landscape architect designed for Heřmanský Hill. They were eventually imported from Austria. The actual installation of the seating area had to be carried out by a professional company, but members of the K4 Association and other volunteers helped with sanding, painting and other supportive work.
Saving the best for last
During autumn 2022, all of the planned elements were installed on Heřmanský Hill, creating a natural amphitheater and several separate seating areas, including a campfire circle. The revitalization project also included the planting of an avenue of fruit trees along the main access road. And local residents decided that this event, where 31 cherry trees were planted, would be the grand finale of the project. More than 100 people turned up, the planting of the cherry trees went like clockwork and ended with a campfire. Elected officials of Moravské Budějovice and the Vysočina Region also attended the event and Jan Švaříček, the project leader, became deputy mayor of the town after this year’s local elections. That is a different story, but it has one thing in common with the revitalization of Heřmanský Hill: the growing support of local people.
You can find the entire photo gallery from the tree planting on the Facebook page of the Na Heřmany project.
The revitalization of Heřmanský Hill would not have been possible without our donors, namely Hornbach and The Hamer Foundation.