This week we have been staying on the Southern shores of the beautiful Berzdorfer See (Lake). Located just south go the town of Görlitz and within easy reach of the Czech and Polish borders it wasn’t always a beautiful place to visit. From 1835 to 1997 this was a huge mining operation. Initially as an underground mining operation, it switched to open cast mining in 1919. After a brief hiatus from the end of the 1920s to 1946 it reopened. This time they brought in the big guns, in the form of gigantic bucket wheel excavators which scraped coal from an open pit 80m deep and over an area of 24 square kilometres. These excavators operated round the clock and pulled coal from the ground at a rate of 7 million tonnes per year to feed what would eventually be 3 coal burning power stations that were opened nearby. In 1997 when the operation became no longer financially viable the mine closed.
In 2002 the mining company began the process of transforming the area into a lake and recreational area. They began flooding the mining pit with water from two local rivers. By 2010 the lake was half full but as a result of a sudden nearby dam burst in heavy rain, the lake filled completely. They turned their attention to making this an amenity that could be utilised by locals and visitors alike. A biking and walking path was installed around its 18km circumference, there are a number of beach areas and since 2022 most of the lake has been deemed navigable and there is a harbour and sailing areas. The planting of trees and vegetation and a return of animal and birdlife continues. There is also a hotel, restaurants, cafes, a ropes course, mini golf and other fun activities to be enjoyed. You can even arrange a visit to some of the now disused and rusted mining equipment, which serves as a stark reminder of the area’s industrial past.
We have loved getting out early in the morning, when the sun is just up and there is a mist on the lake, the birds are in full song and a few early birds are out walking, jogging, biking or skating on the lakeside path. It is a wonderful amenity, that is garnering more and more attention and will only improve with time as the trees and vegetation fill in and wildlife continues to return to the area
So, who owns it now? It cost alot for the transformation, and it likely wasn’t in a land use contract from the 1800’s. So is it still owned by the Coal Mining operation, or did they sell it, or give it to the city?
Its a great idea, and we have a few similar things here that are limestone mining operations… they’d make great reservoirs, but the cost would be significant, so I’m still wondering who transformed the area there, and how their reimbursement model works for the costs they experienced.
To be honest Elaine I don’t know but I’ll make some enquiries and get back to you.
Update: Hi Elaine, from what I have been reading in my faltering German, the mining project would have been state owned, as this area would have been part of the former East Germany. The rehabilitation of this area and other similar projects in the region has been undertake by a state owned organisation called LMBV and is fully financed by the German Department of Finance, so ownership of the land appears to the German Government.
What a remarkable transformation!
It truly is Laura, there are so many lessons to be learnt.
How amazing is that?!? A lesson for us all.
It really is Val, and it is great to see it being used by so many.