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Sofia prepares to plant an urban forest

The citizens of Sofia are called on to leave their green heritage in the historical development of the Bulgarian capital. This is why the Grupa Grad Foundation – an organization that gave birth to the “Sofia – green capital” initiative  last year – started a campaign for creating a new park in the smog-covered city – a new urban forest. It is to be located inside one the six “green passes” of Sofia. A GlobalGiving campaign is currently fundraising to help the Foundation purchase the land and the saplings for the future park.

Sofia in the smog: the Bulgarian capital ranks second in Europe in terms of death rate due to air pollution, according to the WHO.
Sofia in the smog: the Bulgarian capital ranks second in Europe in terms of death rate due to air pollution, according to the WHO.

Each generation leaves its green heritage

Every major period in the development of Sofia has left its green footprint in its history – this is the green heritage of every generation, Grupa Grad says as s coordinator of the “Sofia – Green Capital” initiative.

Since the very beginning of the 19-th century, when Bulgaria had a king (“tzar”), Sofia inherited a vast urban forest known as the “Borissova gradina” (“The Boris’ Garden”) as well as a beautiful park called Vrana. The “Borisova gradina” park with its well-balanced mix of deciduous and coniferous plants is now a stable, self-sustaining ecosystem that is home to many wild animals. The Vrana Park with its impressive, century-old plane trees among spacious lawns is an outstanding model of an urban park.

During the communist regime, the extensive Western and Northern Park were built. The Western Park is a project created by an architect named Ivan Boyadzhiev in 1957. The Northern Park was designed and built in the late 60s and early 70s on the site of a former village. Today both parks combine beautiful flower gardens, wide pathways and lush forest areas.

The dark green areas – this is the green heritage of the generations before us
The dark green areas – this is the green heritage of the generations before us

“When we look over at Sofia – be it from a drone or by some satellite imagery – we can see the historical green heritage of the previous generations”, Grupa Grad says. “The dark green stripes on the map of the city are exactly the massive green heritage left by the previous generations. Today the time has come for our generation to create it’s own green heritage inside Bulgaria’s capital”.

The new urban forest

The new urban forest will be located in the territory of one of the six “green passes” of Sofia – vast areas that are earmarked for green areas as a part of the “Musman” city masterplan created in 1938. These green straps run radially from the city center towards the mountains that lay to the South of Sofia. In the very central part of these green passes there are two urban parks – the “Borissova Gradina” and the so-called Southern park. However, inside the passes there are vast areas of abandoned land – a total of about 1,680 acres. It is deserted, and in some places it is even turned into illegal dumps.

The green passes of Sofia – a total of about 1,680 acres of deserted land.
The green passes of Sofia – a total of about 1,680 acres of deserted land.

The aim of the new park project, called “Urban Forest”, is to involve all kinds of resources available for the afforestation of these neglected green areas in Sofia. This move is crucial for improving the air quality Sofia -a city that ranks second in Europe in terms of death rate due to air pollution.

In the long term the initiative may turn into a “1 million trees” project.

Buying a Tree

Whoever recognizes the need of a radical improvement of the ecological situation in Sofia may help through fundraising project at ammado. The funds raised will be used for the redemption of a piece of land in one of the “green passes”, preparation of the soil, purchasing and planting saplings that from sustainable, local species – approximately 300 trees, as well as the necessary care for them during the first year after planting. The afforestation will start in the spring of 2017.

This is how an urban forest should look like.
This is how an urban forest should look like.

Originally appeared at: CitiesInTransition.EU