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Eicherscheid, North-Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

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The village Eicherscheid with its 1,281 inhabitants is part of the municipality of Simmerath near Aachen and is imbedded into the beautiful landscape of some natural preserves, at an altitude of 550 m. The most prominent characteristics are the beech hedges, serving both as dividers between individual fields and as protective hedges around properties, giving the village its distinct presence. The communal re-structuring in 1972 was the ignition for the conscious planing of the living space. It also brought Eicherscheid the status of an independent organizational entity. The changed framework conditions of the greater municipality of Simmerath were the starting point for establishing a new responsible community in accordance with political and administrative stakeholders. The objective was the optimization of the outside and inside potential of Eicherscheid.

The big inner potential of Eicherscheid is, without a doubt, its citizens. Thinking about the future of the village is a joint process, so is decision-making and the realization of the plans and concepts, mostly in form of voluntary work and with immense commitment. The strong sense of community, reaching across generations, is reflected in the varied social life and its numerous societies and associations. However, a “hot heart for the home town” also requires strategic planning and professional advice to make the development of the village sustainable and of high quality.

With good reason, people are proud that their strong commitment and the marked persistence resulted in an improvement and enrichment of the rural infrastructure. Examples are the construction of the club house “Tenne”, a sport arena with artificial lawn, an indoor facility for horseback riding and the club house for young people as well as the refurbishment of the village centre, the local supply with foodstuff based on a coop and the agricultural museum, based on a private initiative.

The unique cultural landscape and the special rural structure, characterized by wide-spread houses with lots of open space, effective green elements and a number of one and two-story traditional half-timbered houses – many of them under protection – are treasures of identification, but also valuable for touristic purposes. Correspondingly, there is a wealth of measures to maintain and further develop; starting with creating awareness through signs with old denominations and the planned book about structures typical for the region, up to concrete projects such as the planting of new hedges in the area of new developments, creation of pathways surrounded by hedges, a new zoning plan and a reduction of the sealing of surfaces. The creation of a barrier-free circuit trail, a cross-country trail for skiing and a tour around the village are meant to strengthen soft tourism.

“New energies” play an important role, literally and in the broader sense. Apart from the promotion of energy saving and consciousness, the use of local woods, a waste product from maintaining the hedges, is forced. Wood heaters are increasingly in use in the households, further reducing fine dust. The construction of a chipped-woods and other bio mass plants are being planned, furthermore, with its “bio gas” and “energy wood” the village is part of the bio energy region Eifel.

Eicherscheid has made a name for itself with its jointly elaborated and consequently implemented future concept, impressive with the maintenance, revitalization and careful modernization of existing building structures and its cultural heritage. The strong social community also deserves to be mentioned, including the voluntary activities and innovative ideas of the community in order to ensure the operation of important supply facilities. For this Eicherscheid was awarded the European Village Renewal Award for holistic, sustainable and motto-orientated development of exemplary quality.