The 135 hectare Rivierenhof was the first public provincial park in Belgium. Its origins reach back into the 16th century, when it was a private country domain.
In the following years it had several owners, including a well-known local family of bankers, who owned it from 1776 to 1920, whilst the preceding owners were Jesuits (they held it from 1618 to 1773).
The province of Antwerp purchased Rivierenhof in 1921 to protect it from a housing development project, and turned it into a public park in 1923, which is still its current purpose.
Most of Rivierenhof has the layout of an English-style landscape park. The central part is classic park with several historical buildings (due to its history, several buildings were classified as protected sites).
The park offers a wide variety of activities: walking, running, sports (soccer, tennis, korfball, jeu de boules, mini-golf), educational programs for children with over 25,000 children follow a program through their schools on a yearly basis, an open-air theatre, events and festivities including medieval re-enactments, an eco-fair and a rose-festival, botanical gardens, an arboretum, a labyrinth, children’s playgrounds, eating and drinking facilities… they all have their spot in the Rivierenhof.
The northern border contains the technical and administrative services of the park. The southern part of the park is a natural area with the river Schijn and two very large ponds. At the most eastern part there is a sports zone. At this moment there are still several sport clubs located in the center of the park, but they will be transplanted to the most western zone in the upcoming years.
The park attracts around 1,000,000 visitors per year. This number is spectacular but implies a risk as well. The large amount of visitors and high demand for activities can become too much for the maximum capacity of the park.
Until 10 years ago there were many other risks because the park is one of the largest green spaces in the city of Antwerp, and developers looking for open space always tried to claim a part of the Rivierenhof.
Therefore we devised a long term spatial implementation plan, which was approved by the minister (2009), and every project in the park has to be in line with this vision. Of course large infrastructure works near the park may cause small threats, but sometimes they also offer opportunities (e.g. possible extension of the park if a roof would be put over the nearby motorway).
The management of the park received is ISO14001 certified since 2013. There are about 100 employees and about 30 volunteers working for the park.