Tug of war over future use of Syngros Park

New plans by the Maroussi municipality for Syngros Park have met with skepticism from residents of surrounding areas and environmental organizations who fear the park will lose its character. Agriculture Minister Giorgos Drys has been putting pressure on the mayors of nearby Kifissia and Melissia to sign a contract for the park’s administration by today. The new contract submitted to the Institute for Agronomic Research (IGE) for the 95-hectare forest is a milder version of the plan presented two years ago that provided for underground parking, restaurants, cafes, areas for cultural activities, a train around the perimeter, a bird sanctuary, towers with laser lights and botanical gardens. The new design has several clauses that are still vague, but this is still open to response from the other two municipalities. «Already, any references to ’tiled surfaces’ have been removed,» said D. Katopodis, who represents the Friends of the Environment of Maroussi. There is also a very vague reference to reforestation and conservation. No new roads will be built, except for the fire prevention system. As for a controversial through road giving access from Kifissias Avenue to the neighboring Karelas property, there are categorical assurances that this will not be constructed. At the IGE meeting, members promised to undertake a number of actions irrespective of the plan’s provisions, such as road clearing, completing storm water drains, clearing away rubble and restoring buildings. Yet there is still opposition to a number of other points. Petros Koukouzas, agronomic technician and member of the local organization Against the Wind, pointed to the project’s «inflated budget,» which is close to 5.9 million euros, as well as the the fact the municipal services will be acting as project designer, construction company and supervisor of the the project, without any mention of consensus, if not approval from the other two municipalities or the IGE. For several decades, the forest has been closed to the public and has remained untouched. Initial attempts to change the use of the forestland were made during the 1970s when a study was made to create a recreational park. In 1981, part of the forest burned down in a fire but it has since been reforested. Over the past 10 years, over 5,000 seedlings have been planted.

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