After World War II, fearing a Soviet invasion from East Germany, American forces converted a once-quaint airfield outside of Frankfurt into a U.S. military heliport. The complex was built for an Infantry Division stationed in nearby barracks who manned a great number of different helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft stationed in Bonames.
Of course, the invasion never came to pass, and after the closure of the airfield in 1992, its use became fragmented. The hangars and tower buildings were used as a workshop for the long-term unemployed and a firefighting museum in the immediate years after the U.S. departure, but it took a full decade for the city of Frankfurt to purchase the land and fully revitalize the site.
Today, Alter Flugplatz is part of GrünGürtel (“Green Belt”), a ring of lush parks, forests, and playgrounds encircling metropolitan Frankfurt. The remaining concrete runway is used by skaters, rollerbladers, bikers, and kiters alike. The former tower building houses a café and the firefighting museum is still operating in one of the hangars. Best of all, a newly built bike path crosses the nearby Nidda River, linking Frankfurt with this cleverly repurposed military site.
Starting in late 2002, the runway was slowly broken up to allow nature to reclaim previously sealed ground, providing living space for insects and small birds. Other pieces of the broken-down tarmac became benches. The western third of the runway was fully removed to make space for more greenery: trees were planted and pond biotopes placed at the site of former helipads.
In 2005, the converted airfield received the Deutscher Landschaftsarchitektur-Preis, the highest national award for landscaping in Germany. It later also received awards for its playground, its architectural achievement, and for green, nature-enhancing design.
Know Before You Go
Alter Flugplatz Bonames can be reached best either via public transport from the U2 and U9 U-Bahn stop at Kalbach or on foot or bike by following the Nidda river. Some parking is available onsite as well, but can fill up quickly on sunny weekend days.