Mexico City Building World's Largest Eco Park
An urban park covering about 12,300 hectares (30,394 acres) and spanning 16 kilometers (10 miles) end to end is being built in Mexico City.
The proposed ecological park is estimated to be 36 times the size of New York Central Park or more than twice the size of Manhattan.
Parque Ecologico Lago de Texcoco (PELT) is a megaproject that aims to turn back the clock on disruptions to the region's water systems that date back to 1521.
The park is being built with plans to include reforested areas for hiking and biking, restored wetlands and lakes for water sports and wildlife, family picnicking shelters, and soccer fields. PELT plans also include renewable energy installations, community gardens, wastewater treatment facilities, and a research center for the study of wetlands.
The project is led by noted Mexican landscape architect Inaki Echeverria, along with a virtual army of experts such as engineers, biologists, architects, and urban planners.
The park will occupy the basin of a dried-up lake which is centered in one of the city's lowest points. The massive park is expected to help regulate the entire Metropolitan Zone during extreme storm scenarios, treat stormwater run-off, and increase aquifer recharging.
Transportation within Parque Ecologico Lago de Texcoco will be focused on bike paths and trails. Single-family vehicles will be restricted to the center of the park.
During Aztec times, the region's lakes were the primary source of fresh water. It was later drained by the Spanish after they took over the city of Tenochtitlan. The area was made off-limits to the public due to flooding and infrastructure issues.
Mexico constructed pipes to bring in roughly 30% of the city's water centuries later. However, the city is pumping water twice as fast as water is returning via rainfall.
Inaki Echeverria says the ecological park project has the potential to "change the direction of the history of the city and the valley." He also said he is feeling the pressure and need to finish the massive project before the current presidential administration ends in 2024.
"People are expecting me to fail. A lot of people. For the right reasons, for the wrong reasons, for every reason," he said.
The team is also planning on adding more ecological components like solar power and wind and biofuels to minimize maintenance costs. Echeverria said they are prioritizing building a park that can maintain itself and give it the means to grow even after the current administration is gone.
Inaki has proposed a design for the park a decade ago. It was paused to make way for the airport project.
Experts applaud the government's decision to use the land for green infrastructure near the city center. The director of the University of Nevada Steffan Lehmann said the park will be a learning experience not just to people but to other cities as well.
Lehmann also praised the upcoming park for its impact on fighting climate change.
The first phase of the project is expected to break ground in early 2020, making way for the restoration of Lake Nabor Carrillo, building public sporting facilities and a 10-kilometer running trail.
The government hopes to open the first section of the park by 2021.
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