A new urban nature park, the first of its kind, like a ‘Central Park’, but with ‘wild animals’, will open in the middle of Jerusalem this coming Monday.
By Hillel Fendel
After two decades of persistent public battle, the Jerusalem Municipality will be dedicating and opening this week an urban nature park, replete with gazelles, ponds, bicycle paths and more, smack in the middle of the city.
The park, named Gazelle Valley, stretches over 60 acres (250 dunams), and is located between the busy Begin Highway, the Katamon neighborhood, and Givat Mordechai. The Central Park-like (New York) natural areas is also within walking distance of Bayit V’gan, the Malha Mall, and other residential neighborhoods.
The completion of the park is considered a major victory for both the municipality and the public over real estate tycoons who sought to build high-rises on the land.
The official opening will take place this coming Monday, in a free-to-the-public ceremony and day of activities. The municipality has invested NIS 22 million into the project so far, and plans to spend another NIS 70 million in the coming years, from both the municipal budget and donations raised via the Jerusalem Foundation.
The park will feature some 20-25 gazelles – the survivors of what was once a much larger herd – and dozens of varieties of other fauna and flora, five ponds, two streams, walking trails and bicycle paths. The park will offer guided group tours to nature lovers, who will also be able to borrow binoculars, mats and deck chairs. Visitors are asked not to touch baby deer they might find hidden amidst the brush, because this might lead their mothers to abandon them to their deaths.
“The park’s guiding principle is revolutionary in terms of Israeli urban public spaces,” Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said. “It is a nature reserve in the middle of Jerusalem. Gazelle Valley is one of the biggest and most important Jerusalem projects in recent years, representing above all community involvement in the city and the power of joint brainstorming and planning by City Hall and residents.”
In the past, the area was home to a multiplicity of fruit orchards, but in the 1980s these were abandoned. The location became known as “gazelle valley” for the herd of gazelles that inhabited the site. Over the years, the herd became trapped among busy highways, the Malha Mall and various residential projects, with no habitat left – and shrank to only five gazelles. Around the same time, real estate developers “discovered” the spot and applied for permission to build a total of some 14,000 housing units there. This led to a “civil uprising” of Jerusalem residents, with the help of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and other environmental organizations and social activists, who waged a persistent struggle against the construction and in favor of the park.
In 2009, Mayor Barkat officially joined the residents’ struggle, and the battle was won.
Monday’s Opening Day events will begin at 4 PM, and will include:
- Information stations operated by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel
- A bird-watching workshop
- The Jordan Valley Mandolin Orchestra
- Giant puppets made of recycled materials
- Singing in Nature, with Yizhar Florsheim
- Music and theater show in between the paths
- The Zimratya Choir
- The Givat Mordechai and Gonnenim Children Choirs
View original Arutz Sheva publication at: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/193154#.VRKoFuFbg8I