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Central Park in brief

Even the very trees of the Central Park will declare their threatened independency (the attached paper asking for the retaining the area as a park)
Photo: Juha Jakonen

The Central Park of Helsinki-the block 627 northwards from Lääkärinkatu. Its past, present and future

The Central Park, founded in 1911 by the great Bertel Jung, splitting the city of Helsinki, modelled after its New York counterpart is the foremost outdoors area of Helsinki. The position of the Central Park is usually well recognised but still it is under constant construction threat.

In the late 1960s Helsinki City board earmarked one building lot from the block 627 for Syöpäsäätiö (Cancer Fund) and one building lot for a nursing school. These plans have later on been abandonded as unnecessary by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Ministry of Interior, The Supreme Administrative Court and the Helsinki City Board.

The area was confirmed as a park by the Ministry of Interior on the 28th May, 1981 and the City Council approved an initiative by Paavo Arhinmäki in 2002 according to which the area of Keskuspuisto can not be diminished. Despite these, as the project area was left outside of the local plan of Keskuspuisto, there is a continuous debate whether the area is a part of Keskuspuisto or not.

The project area is owned by the city of Helsinki, covering almost 4 hectares (in the region of 9000 acres). It is located east from the houses of Mannerheimintie 71-79 and northwards from Lääkärinkatu. At the latest Master plan of Helsinki as it was approved in 2002 the project area was earmarked as one possible building lot. So called city villa (smallish and stylish appartment houses) are about to be built in the area, the construction process possibly lasting for five years. The construction endangers existence of a rare and protected lehtonata plant (festuca gigantea) and affects the surroundings of nightingale. The construction would also disturb the hydrological circumstances of the area, increasing noise and pollution and threaten widely used outdoor paths and a children’s playground, let alone the local inhabitants, many of them being elderly people with some serious conditions such as diabetes and mobility disorders.

Some thousands of signatures on behalf of retaing the area as it is have been collected and on Sunday, 6th November a large outdoor happening (Ei enää palaakaan Keskuspuistosta = Not a single more peace of the Central Park) was arranged followed by a declaration of Christmas peace on 23rd December. Dozens of articles on the subject have been published in various local papers and in Helsingin Sanomat; besides that, there have been a radio interview in Radio Helsinki and some TV coverage. A 40 minute documentary film of the Ei enää palaakaan Keskuspuistosta happening has been filmed by Erkki Pirtola.

Representatives of the Green Party, the Left Alliance and the Center at The City Planning Committee of Helsinki have been against and the Conservative Party and Social Democratic Part have been supportive of the building plan. A report of the Lehtonata plant and a ground investigation will be taking place during the summer of 2006. Despite the idea to sketch a new plan for Central Park, the City Planning Department decided in the August 2006 that borders set for the Central Park and markings in its area that were included in the Master Plan of 2002 would replace all eventual plans for the Central Park.

There has been a consultant work about the nature values of the area ongoing. Due to complexity of this work - according to the official information - the process has been postponed. At the moment, the whole planning process at Lääkärinkatu area is under serious consideration. The municipal election on Sunday will decide, whether this area remains as the gateway to the Central Park also in future.

Michael Perukangas

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