Plans to give Pedion tou Areos park a better and safer image

A draft design from the Athens-Piraeus prefecture to transform what is now an abandoned and neglected park into an aesthetically pleasing, safe space for city-dwellers to get some fresh air has been summed up as a design for the area for the purpose of «getting people together.» The design for revamping the central Pedion tou Areos, presented earlier this month by Athens-Piraeus prefect Fofi Yennimata, is based on the concept of an open park (with eight instead of the present five entrances), more greenery, better lighting and aesthetics and an emphasis on security. «We have a duty to protect the site and to highlight it. It is an historic park, one of the two largest green spaces in the city,» said Yennimata. Work, budgeted at over 882,300 euros, is to begin right after the first Environment and Public Works Ministry contract is completed and is expected to be done in time for the Olympic Games. The prefecture has secured funds in cooperation with the Environment and Public Works Ministry, but there are still obstacles. «We don’t have enough funds, nor do we have complete authority. We are waiting for the State to support the prefecture so that it becomes the headquarters (for the effort) and in order to fulfill public expectations,» said Yennimata. New access and greenery The design presents an idyllic picture of new plantings of cypress, pine and cedar trees and rarely seen plants, such as magnolias. No existing tree will be cut down and naturally occurring shrubs will be retained around the park’s perimeter. Grass lawns will be planted within the park such as on the sloping area at the entrance by the statue of King Constantine. The entrance by the statue of Athena is to be tiled over and lit up and another entrance is to be created alongside the Army Geographical Survey building. The difference in height between the road and the park surface prevents the entry of vehicles. A special security force is to guard all entrances and patrol inside the park itself, and the perimeter railings are to be restricted to a minimum and moved 10 meters inside the outer wall. There will be separate footpaths, cycle paths, jogging and roller-blading runs on a 12-meter-wide surface. Another path from the western entrance will pass the statues of the Greek War of Independence heroes. Despite these improvements, most of which it agrees with, the Committee to Protect the Park is insisting that illegally constructed buildings used by the Panhellenic Gymnastics Association be demolished.