07/13/2010 08:55

First survey of nature sites aims to help integrate open spaces into urban planning.

The first urban nature site survey of Jerusalem was unveiled by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel at its offices in the capital on Sunday night.

The survey of 151 nature spots around the city will be used to help city planners construct a plan that protects the sites and enable construction to go on around them.

SPNI performed the study after winning a tender issued by the Environmental Protection Ministry in 2007. Since then SPNI, in conjunction with the ministry, has mapped the parks, nature spots, fields and other open spaces with an attention to detail. The result is a multi-page spread about each site with information such as its location, access to the public, disturbances (roads, sewage etc.), the flora and fauna, butterflies, maps and pictures.

While the Jerusalem Municipality has not been idle in shifting its focus to protect natural spots, this is the first such comprehensive survey. Forty nature spots were already included in the city’s building plans in 2004, but the new survey provides much more data on many more locations.

A similar study has been carried out in Netanya and the Jerusalem survey will become a model for such surveys in other cities, Menachem Zalutski, head of the Open Spaces Branch at the Environmental Protection Ministry, said on Sunday night. The ministry hopes to issue more tenders for urban nature surveys next year, Zalutski added.

The survey was planned and managed by Ayala Goldman, planning coordinator in the Jerusalem District of the ministry, and Ido Vachtel, head of the SPNI surveyors team.

“The vision was to create an up-to-date database of the urban nature infrastructure,” Goldman said. “The job was to map the spots, collate the data to produce a basis for the master plan.”

“The first task was to collect the existing data from SPNI and other organizations,” Vachtel said. For instance, the Old City’s nature spots were mapped as part of the restoration of its walls a year before the survey began.

The survey was limited to areas within the municipal boundaries, minus some places made inaccessible by the security barrier, he added.

The study was designed to figure out what had been discovered in the course of SPNI’s surveys. In addition to identifying the sites, ancient trees, pools of amphibians and rare species were all discovered around the city, Vachtel and Goldman said.

The 151 sites include the Mir Forest in the Pisgat Ze’ev neighborhood, the Jerusalem Forest, the Valley of the Gazelles, the Shiloah Valley, the Sheikh Bader Cemetery, and the orchards of Kibbutz Ramat Rahel.

In an indication that the survey includes more than the established forests and sites, it also includes the field opposite the Hollandia building on the corner of Derech Hevron and Rehov Yanovsky, in the Baka neighborhood.

SPNI received support for the project from the Bracha Foundation.