Status: 26/09/2023, 07:03 a.m.
By: Silke Reinbold-Jandretzki
Looking for a new use: one of the Eschenloh tunnels. © Andreas Mayr
The Eschenloh Olympic Tunnels arouse desires. Various sides raise their hands when it comes to their reuse. There are still only ideas.
Eschenlohe – In September, the Eschenlohe Tunnels, almost 90 years old, were taken out of service. The two 220 and 230 meter long tubes had increasingly become problem children in terms of their structural condition and substance. As a road tunnel, they wanted to get rid of them, but as far as other uses are concerned, they arouse desires. This was already evident months ago at a meeting in a large group in Oberau, which was attended by various participants and those affected. There were plenty of ideas on the table for possible subsequent uses.
Fire brigade wants a training tunnel
Fire brigade officials would like to see a training tunnel that does not exist in Germany, unlike in Switzerland, for example – and could imagine one of the tubes for it. Others have more of a kind of "test tunnel" in mind: for example, flow engineers could carry out experiments on ventilation with a mobile turbine, experts could investigate the behavior of people who suddenly encounter a smoke wall in the structure; others would like to devote themselves to the aspect of lighting, and it could also be about self-extinguishing systems. And there is a loud call to set up a documentation site that sheds light on the history of the forced laborers in the tunnels of 1944/45 who toiled for German war production. The State Office for the Preservation of Historical Monuments is fundamentally positive about the conversion of the tunnels, which have protection status with their tunnels and caverns, but sees a coherent overall concept as necessary, which, in the opinion of the authority, must provide for a documentation site.
The process will probably drag on for years and devour a lot of money
Nadine Heiß from the Weilheim State Building Authority, which is currently still responsible for securing the tunnels before they are transferred to the Federal Institute for Real Estate (BImA) in a process, confirms the interest of various sides in the future use of the tubes. All parties present at the first meeting were impressed by the basic idea. Heiß also emphasizes: "There are many ideas, but that goes hand in hand with rights and obligations."
Currently, we are at the very beginning of a development that will drag on for years and is expected to devour a lot of money. Even in the event that fire brigades should train in the monument in the future, it is important to secure it and provide it with appropriate equipment. "A Swiss-style training facility costs a few million euros," says Johann Eitzenberger. The Garmisch-Partenkirchener, district fire councillor and chairman of the Bavarian State Fire Brigade Association in personal union, is fully behind the idea of setting up a training facility; he wanted to work for its realization. "That would be very good and very useful, because we don't have anything like that in Germany." This also makes sense for the district, which is on its way to the tunnel region. At the moment, the fire brigades are making do with practical training on site during tunnel inspection phases, among other things – or they are going to Switzerland.
Just not a ruin: Eschenlohe's mayor wants reuse
So the following applies: The monument is very popular. Anton Kölbl (CSU) registers it with relief. For him as mayor of Eschenlohe, what counts is that "there is some kind of subsequent use so that no ruin is created". Perhaps, he thinks, several divisions, possibly staggered in time, could use a tube together. Kölbl uses the Schneefernerhaus environmental research station, where various institutions are advancing their studies, as a model. What makes Kölbl positive about the tubes: "The monument protection is completely open to further use." And: At the first meeting, everyone was able to live with the requirements of the others. Kölbl pleads for another meeting on site – and someone is needed to bring together all interests and create a concept.
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Fancy a voyage of discovery?
No matter what use it ultimately boils down to, several pages indicate that it will not be possible without a new, flanking building, including for toilet facilities, recreation or lecture rooms and changing rooms. Depending on what is needed, what will be created in the tunnels, which have so far been more of a block on the leg. Kölbl is almost thrilled by the wide range of interest: "I couldn't have imagined that there would be so many pages."