In Tel Aviv’s Tel Baruch neighborhood, local activists say they hope to save the rare landscape from commercial projects.

By staging an amateur photography competition in northwest Tel Aviv’s Tel Baruch neighborhood, local activists say they hope to save the rare flora and fauna there from commercial building projects.

Residents have banned together to battle a portion of Building Plan 3700 for their city, which calls for massive development and construction in the open spaces of northwest Tel Aviv, extending from the Herzliya border in the north to Sde Dov Airport to the south.

Among the development plans are over 12,000 housing units, parking lots, shopping centers and transportation arteries, the group explained.

While the residents do not object the plan as a whole, they are asking that a small sliver west of Road 2040 be removed from the project outline. Led by attorney Galit Samuel and social activist Alon Sigler, the activists argue that the sands there are rife with rare species of flora and fauna and a “green lung” for all residents of Gush Dan.

“It is necessary to preserve this as a open natural area for the benefit of the wider public and to declare it as a nature reserve, as has been done in many big cities around the world – while relinquishing accompanying development that is not critical to relieving the housing shortage,” the activists said in a statement.

The plans are currently in the appeal stage at the National Committee for Planning and Building, and the residents have until March 14 to submit their complaints – after which the committee will make its final decision, activist Hadas Marshall told The Jerusalem Post.

“I was shocked because it’s really close to my heart. It’s a really beautiful place,” Marshall said. “Most citizens of Tel Aviv don’t really know it’s going on.”

The Tel Baruch coastal ridge area contains over 200 species of unique plants and animals that are endemic to the sands there, a region that is one of the only natural places left in Tel Aviv, according to Marshall.

“It’s really important for the next generation because they deserve to know what was here before,” she said.

While the plans call for 60 percent of the disputed territory to become a green park – with the rest becoming commercial centers and underground parking – the group of residents have argued that grass will not be a habitable substitute for the sand-dwelling creatures that live in Tel Baruch.

“We have tons of parks with grass in Tel Aviv,” Marshall said.

“We’re saying develop but develop smartly,” she continued.

“Don’t just build, build, build. We don’t need a shopping mall on the beach.”

The photography competition, which has an open enrollment to all artists, will allow participants to relate to the rest of the city how beautiful the area is, Marshall explained.

Photographers will come to the area this Friday, between 12 and 4 p.m., and the winning photos will hang on café walls throughout the city.

Judging the competition will be some of the nation’s top photographers, including Giora Salmi, Yossi Eshbol, Eyal Bartov, Yuval Dax and Osnat Krasnanski, the group said.

“We want to show everyone that it’s such a beautiful place and there are lots of things to conserve,” Marshall added.