Origins of the working group Scheveningen Woods

The Scheveningen Woods working group came about because of the Actie Comité Scheveningse Bos Schoon, established in 1995 to prevent the area where gay men congregated in the Scheveningen Woods from becoming legally recognized.

Without consulting the neighbourhood E.J. van der Putten, the then alderman, planned to give the homosexuals’ meeting place, which had been tolerated for years, a more official character. After the action committee collected more than 1000 signatures in the neighbourhood within two days, it became clear that there was plenty of opposition to the alderman’s plans. Mayor Havermans was also against the idea because, according to the committe, all the suggested regulatory measures were unsatisfactory. The meeting place needless to say did not get the official stamp.

This action campaign received a lot of media attention both locally and nationally. Back then it was considered to be more sensible to suggest another location where fewer people would be inconvenienced by the behaviour of men looking for casual sex: the 72 steps, behind Madurodam. Although the committee, in fact, always found it rather strange to be proposing an alternative spot for activities that were actually against the law (Article 239 of the Penal Code). The committee took proceedings as far as the Council of State in an attempt to compel the council to ban such a meeting place from the woods altogether. But the council was not prepared to take any serious action.

In the past Scheveningen Woods was the responsibility of the Nieuwe Parklaan Police Station in Scheveningen, which meant that very little patrolling took place in the woods. With the help of the action committee, this was transferred to Karnebeek Police Station. There is now a special clean-up team to remove used condoms and tissues and 1200 extra man-hours allocated to police surveillance.

After Mayor Deetman took a walk in Scheveningen Woods on a lovely summer’s day and saw with his own eyes the state of affairs there, he immediately decided to institute meetings with the committee four times a year to listen to the neighbourhood’s wishes and complaints. The outcome was the installation of the skate park, a complete makeover of the play area, a running circuit, extra police surveillance, the special clean-up team, pruning back of undergrowth in areas pinpointed by the action group, a council liaison officer …

This could all be seen as something of a success story except there is no one who monitors day-to-day activities. What the working group Scheveningen Woods does is keep in touch with the council services.

In the meantime, the goal remains to keep the nuisance caused by the meeting place for gays to a minimum until it is relocated.

Bert Huisman
January 2008