Gazelle Park Planned for Yerushalayim

YERUSHALAYIM -
A gazelle seen near Yerushalayim.
A gazelle seen near Yerushalayim.

A gazelle park is coming to Yerushalayim — 64 acres of wildlife preserve and park near the center of the capital, the first of its kind in the country.

The Gazelle Urban Nature Park, on the edge of the Givat Mordechai neighborhood in the city’s southwest, will contain animals freely roaming in their natural habitat.

Long called Gazelle Valley for the small flock of wild mountain gazelle that live there, it is the largest open space left in the heart of Israel’s capital. About the size of the Old City, until recently it was the object of a decades-long battle that pitted a coalition of environmentalists and local residents against real estate developers.

In March 2012, the Yerushalayim Magistrate’s Court ruled against the developers, clearing the way for a park that will preserve and protect the plant and wildlife that live in Gazelle Valley, and also create a shared space within which people and gazelles can meet.

“The park will be divided into three sections,” says Amir Balaban, a wildlife expert, who works with the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) and was a leading advocate for the park.

“The smallest, about 50 dunams [12 acres], will be used strictly by the gazelles as their natural habitat. Another section, about 130 dunams, will be a picnic area. Another 60 dunams will act as a buffer zone between the other two sections and that’s where a visitors’ center will be built and people will be able to get close — but not too close — to the gazelles.”

All this will happen in stages over the course of about 10 years, Balaban says. The first stage is slated for completion by August 2013 and will include new plantings, increasing the gazelle herd and building the first of two promenades.

The second stage will focus on two streams that run through the tract. Plans call for creating 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, while the two final stages call for a second promenade with street-level observation points, and the construction of a second visitors’ center.

It will be open free to the public during all phases of construction.