Kynosargous hill overwhelmed by garbage

The hill of Kynosargous has fallen victim to an all too common type of neglect. It is hard to get projects completed in Greece, and almost impossible to maintain them. Funds and planning for maintenance are rarely available, especially when the projects affect the quality of life. A typical example is that of city parks and gardens, and of urban green spaces in general, which get little or no attention. City authorities often do not approve appointments of staff to maintain green spaces. This results, for instance, in the glaring contrast between the immaculately tended strips in the center of the road, accompanied by a sign saying green areas maintained by the Public Works Ministry, and the wretched state of the roadsides, which are the responsibility of local municipalities. Uninterrupted view The hill of Kynosargous, bordering Athens and Dafni, was once a beautiful green place much frequented by Athenians. The brow of the hill offers an uninterrupted view of the Attica basin from Hymettus to Pendeli and Parnitha on one side and the Saronic Gulf on the other. Nowadays, the hill of Kynosargous (the classical name by which it is known locally) or Aghios Ioannis Vouliagmenis (as it is officially referred to by the City of Athens to which it belongs) is still beautiful, though only from a distance, and it is rarely visited. Practically the only visitors are drug users, casual or systematic vandals, and a few unsuspecting passers-by. Locals avoid the area, even though it is the only green space within easy reach. Located right above the square of Aghios Ioannis tou Kynigou and the Metro station of the same name, Kynosargous sparkles at first glance. There are pines and cypresses, freshly painted exterior walls, and repaired cement stairways lead from the square to the hill. But just beyond the last step rubbish and neglect are visible. Rusty remnants of trash cans, benches, and lamps; rotten, broken stairs, heaps of all kinds of rubbish; branches of trees left unpruned for years blocking the pathway; used syringes everywhere; scraps of metal that used to be part of a children’s playground; the headquarters the Forest Scouts, created by the Dafni Municipality, left at the mercy of vandals; broken beer bottles; and food scraps left in the dry fountains at the entrance to the hill. Co-management The City of Athens has never repaired the damage done to the refurbishment works carried out in 1985-86, nor does it have the area cleaned. Officials say no funds are available. The Dafni Municipality does not have sufficient funds to take action. All proposals for co-management of the park have come to nothing. (The smaller, eastern section of the hill, which contains no greenery but comprises a small neighborhood reminiscent of Plaka, belongs to the Dafni Municipality. Special building regulations are in force there and all open spaces have been spoken for). It is time that this hill, and all the other hills in Athens which are in a similar state, was opened up once more to the public. Why parks soon acquire a neglected air Landscape architect and forestry specialist Professor Costas Kassios of the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) told Kathimerini the basic reasons behind the neglect of green areas. 1. Municipalities lack organized maintenance services staffed by professional foresters, horticulturalists and landscape architects. 2. There is no economic or operational planning of the timing and type of maintenance that should be done (cleaning, pruning, watering, planting and replacing plants) in green areas. 3. When parks are damaged, local residents do not urge local authorities to repair them. 4. Due to poor upbringing and education, some visitors see parks as places to leave their rubbish, instead of places that belong to them and their children. 5. Local authorities lack the imagination to organize residents into friends of the park groups to keep an eye on local parks. 6. There are no incentives from central agencies such as the Environment Ministry that might reward improved maintenance and care of green areas with an annual money prize, for instance. 7. There is a mistaken notion that parks are passive rather than active parts of the city, with educational, cultural and recreational potential. 8. Parks are poorly planned and have unsuitable plants which are often health hazards (allergies, caterpillars and other insects) to visitors or pose a fire risk, as well as playgrounds, footpaths and seating that are badly constructed or made of dangerous or environmentally harmful materials. 9. Parks lack infrastructure to protect against fire and flood, nor do they possess facilities for visitors such as drinking water, toilets, lighting and continuous overnight supervision. 10. The authorities are indifferent to repairing damage and deterioration. The secret of well-run green areas is to repair any damage immediately. If that is not done, the damage gets worse and parks soon acquire a neglected look. In conclusion, Kassios says the three preventive measures a well-run park requires are good policing and guarding, immediate repair of damage and lighting at night.