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29 Jul 2014
I recently went to Colombia as part of the Atkins project study team to undertake an open space and mobility masterplan for the municipality of Pereira. In my opinion, open space is fundamental to the health and well-being of communities. A network of high quality spaces that are safe, accessible and provide for sport, recreation and relaxation is key in bringing communities closer together.
Pereira is Colombia’s sixth largest city and is located in the west of Colombia in the coffee-growing region. To date, the municipality has introduced many initiatives to improve the quality of open spaces and accessibility in the city and rural areas, however there is a lack of a strategic framework that could link open space and mobility projects together, phase delivery and effectively implement them on the ground.
From meetings with the municipality, stakeholders and site visits, issues quickly surfaced around open space in both rural and urban areas. Open space in the centre of the city is defined by large grand plazas (such as the Plaza de Bolivar), however behind the visually impressive public art that occupies this space, the plazas are under threat by the activities of illegal street vendors who appear to be overtaking the collective right to public space.
Moving out to the cities’ neighbourhoods, there are several diverse metropolitan parks (such as the Café Park) that provide plenty of opportunities for recreation from boating to fishing to basketball. But it is the smaller pocket parks that need the greatest attention – many of the spaces need better maintenance of infrastructure, such as re-painting the lines on courts and brightening up children’s play equipment.
Beyond Pereira’s urban area, the rural areas contain the national and regional parks (such as Los Nevados National Natural Park) and provide plenty of recreation opportunities, including trekking, mountain biking, rock and ice climbing, and sports fishing, and also provides an important water source for the coffee-growing region. The municipality is keen to encourage ecotourism within these areas, but this will need to be carefully managed to ensure that water sources and the natural conservation areas remain protected.
Investment in open space is required at all spatial scales in Pereira – from pocket parks to the national parks. The municipality is keen to invest in the development of new open spaces, however I think that resources could be better focused in improving the existing spaces and creating links between these spaces that could have the added benefits of improved accessibility for communities – with links that align to pedestrian, cycling and public transport routes, and economic benefits – through linked retail and café establishments and regulated market places. What is good to see is that open spaces are on the public agenda.
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