Sunday, January 13, 2013

Gazelle Urban Nature Park in Jerusalem

Gazelle in its Jerusalem habitat
This month opens a new chapter in Jerusalem’s efforts to “go green”.  After a decades-long fight to keep developers away from the site, Israel will finally get its first wildlife nature park located within a city, and Jerusalem will have preserved a precious open space in its urban heartland.

Gazelle Valley is about 64 acres of choice, undeveloped land and is the largest open space left in Jerusalem proper. It is named for a herd of gazelles of the subspecies Gazella gazella that live in this area, bounded by urban development.

The land, once planted with kibbutz-owned orchards that supplied fruit to Jerusalemites during the War of Independence and the Arab siege, is now slated to become the city’s premier nature initiative. Funded in part by the Jerusalem Foundation, it will be built in stages over the course of the next 10 years.

The park will be divided into three sections. The smallest parcel, about 12 acres, will be used strictly by the gazelles as their natural habitat. Another 32-acre section is designated for picnic grounds, while the remaining 15 or so acres will act as a barrier zone between the other sections. This is where a visitors’ center will be built.

Stage one of the plan, expected to be completed by next August, will include reorganizing the valley’s natural core with new plantings, increasing the surviving gazelle herd from four to 15, and building the first of two promenades.

The second stage will focus on two streams that run through the valley. Plans call for reorganizing their banks to create five water ponds that will be accessible to both gazelles and humans and also act as a barrier between them.

Stage three will see the building of the visitors’ center and other structures; stage four calls for a second promenade with street-level observation points; and the last stage envisions a second visitors’ center.
The Gazelle Urban Nature Park will remain open to the public during all phases of construction and there will be no admission fee.

As the first urban nature wildlife preserve in Israel, the Jerusalem park could pave the way for other initiatives throughout the country that promote urban nature as a resource for leisure, education, tourism, research and culture.

Source: Israel21c

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