SHARON UDASIN 10/21/2014
Playgrounds, a cafe, an amphitheater, bike paths and various other recreational facilities planned in the northern portion park.

Once notorious as the eyesore of the Gush Dan region, a garbage dump turned green oasis will likely be expanding even further.

The Tel Aviv District Committee for Planning and Building approved on Monday plans for constructing playgrounds, a cafe, an amphitheater, bike paths and various other recreational facilities in the northern portion of Ariel Sharon Park – the expansive metropolitan hub that also contains the rehabilitated Hiriya trash mountain. With the committee’s approval, the plans have now been “deposited” for the public hearing and opposition stage of the planning process, the Interior Ministry said.

“The deposit represents another significant step in transforming the country’s largest metropolitan park into a center of recreation and leisure for all residents of the State of Israel in general and the residents of the Gush Dan metropolitan area in particular,” said Moshe Borochov, the CEO of Ariel Sharon Park

A portion of Ariel Sharon Park, atop the former Hiriya garbage dump, was first opened to the public in May 2011, with more and more wooded areas, bike paths and other green spaces gradually opening all the time. While Hiriya will remain a landmark icon at the park’s center, the reformed “garbage mountain” will eventually be just a small part of a roughly 800-hectare site – made up of former agricultural lands as well as the rehabilitated waste site.

The Hiriya dump began receiving trash more than 60 years ago and closed in 1999, though a waste transfer station and recycling center still remain at the southeastern side of the mountain. The dump had been causing massive problems for years, including attracting birds that pillaged through the garbage and distracted flights leaving from and landing at Ben Gurion Airport.

Dr. Martin Weyl, director of the Beracha Foundation and the visionary behind the park’s transformation, was able to convince the government to go 50-50 with his foundation on initial funding for the rehabilitation. In 2005, the government matched the foundation’s initial $8 million donation.

This Thursday, Ariel Sharon Park managers will launch a new bridge connecting the park to the neighborhoods of southeast Tel Aviv, allowing the passage for pedestrians and bicycles. In order to construct the bridge, it was necessary to divert Nahal Kofer and carefully preserve mature eucalyptus trees growing in the area, in cooperation with the Yarkon Drainage Authority and the Igudan: Dan Regional Association for Environmental Infrastructure.

As far as the northern expansion approved on Monday is concerned, the project will involve about 330 hectares worth of former agricultural land. The space will be bordered by Road 1 in the south, Road 4 in the east, Road 461 in the north and on the border of the city of Tel Aviv-Yafo’s Menachem Begin Park, the Interior Ministry said.

Once completed, this new portion of the park will offer a variety of open spaces, with those areas closest to residential areas offering the more “intensive activities” – like the picnic spots, playgrounds and amphitheater, according to the ministry. In the heart of the park, there will be a large space that offers a “break” from the bustle of city life, offering the possibility of gardening, walking and cycling among diverse types of vegetation alongside streams, the ministry added.

The park’s development will also enable the construction of a fourth lane on Road 1 and the Ayalon, which will help prevent flooding in the neighborhoods of south Tel Aviv, the ministry said.

In addition to all of the elements mentioned by the Interior Ministry, the Ariel Sharon Park managers said that the new park area will feature camping facilities as well as a recreational lake. The establishment of natural habitats, meanwhile will serve to enrich the biodiversity already thriving in the park area, the managers added.

Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz called the project’s approval and transfer to the public opposition round “a significant milestone in executing the vision of Ariel Sharon Park for social and environmental justice.”

“The investment made so far and more that is expected to be made has transformed a mountain that was an environmental nuisance into a hub used for recreation, enjoyment and as a meeting point for the whole population and all sectors from the Center and from the periphery, while maintaining green open spaces in the heart of Gush Dan,” Peretz said.