Kempens Landschap and Colony 5-7
Landscape under pressure
The story of vagrants in Wortel and Merksplas Colony ends in 1993. Once vagrancy is no longer punishable, the sites lose their original function. Several buildings end up empty and the landscape in danger of becoming fragmented through sale. To ensure that the special character of Colony 5-7 is not lost, the sites must be kept together as a whole.
In 1997, the Kempens Landschap Foundation was started by the Province of Antwerp. Under the aegis of Kempens Landschap, the Technical Coordination Commission was established for the protection of Colony 5-U and its preservation by the surrounding communities. The various members agreed to purchase the whole ensemble of land and buildings together. Each took charge of its own piece of the puzzle, as it were. Since then, the members of the commission coordinate all initiatives in Wortel and Merksplas Colony amongst themselves. In this way, the Colonies are maintained as a single landscape entity and as a single area open to the public. In addition to Kempens Landschap, the commission includes the Province of Antwerp, the agency Onroerend Erfgoed (Built Heritage), the Agentschap for Natuur & Bos (Agency for Nature & Forests), the Vlaamse Landmaatschappij (Flemish Land Company) the city of Hoogstraten, the municipality of Merksplas, the Bouwmaatschappij de Noorderkempen (Building Company of North Kempen), Pidpa (Drinking Water Company of the Province of Antwerp), Convent Hoogstraten and Red Merksplas-kolonie (Save Merksplas Colony).
In 1999, both colonies became protected landscapes. Several buildings in Merksplas Colony were in addition protected as monuments. After restoration, these buildings were given a new purpose. Nature and landscape also continue to play an important role.
The work of Kempens Landschap pays off! In 1997, the Colonies were still in the top 100 most endangered world monuments. In 2018, they will have the chance – together with the five Colonies in the Netherlands – to take their place on the renowned Unesco World Heritage list.
Kempens Landschap doesn’t limit its work to the Colonies. The organisation is active in more than 50 domains in the Province of Antwerp. In most of these areas, you can hike and cycle to your heart’s content. Dine in a fort, rail bike in the countryside, trek through the woods in clogs, camp in a tree-tent: at Kempens Landschap, you can do it all. Plan your next outing at www.kempenslandschap.be.