La Plancha’s neighbors say they haven’t been hearing too much about how their dreams of a “Central Park” are progressing. But they have reason for hope.
News that the Tehuantepec Railway, concession holder of the site, will transfer its railyards to somewhere near Uman has helped supporters of La Plancha remain optimistic.
Grass roots organizers have kept the concept alive — converting the Centro’s last large-scale parcel of land from a barren tract into a green space that engages both nature and neighbors.
East of the Centro, the site is north of the old train station between Calles 55 and 43, and Calles 48 and 46. The elegant 1920 train station, out of commission since 1993, opened as an art school in 2007.
“Gran Parque La Plancha, Imagina…” is the name of the 30-page proposal submitted to the state government by organizing neighbors, Gran Parque La Plancha, A. C.
The proposal is the work of several specialists like Ximena Renan Galindo, a researcher at Cinvestav Merida; Roger Orellana Lanza, of the Natural Resources Unit of the Yucatan Center for Scientific Research and founder of the Regional Botanical Garden that bears his name, and Marco Peraza Guzman, who has a doctorate degree in architecture.
More than planting trees, the group stresses architecture and historical preservation of the 20-acre site; environment and gardens; culture, education and tourism; health, sports, recreation and bike paths, and sustainable energy and water resources.
Interviewed by Diario de Yucatán, Gran Parque La Plancha, A. C. President Félix Rubio Villanueva said that this project builds on earlier proposals for a park on the site, which were supplemented with suggestions from neighbors, citizens of other parts of Merida and experts who participated in an interdisciplinary forum held in August 2014. Among the guests there was Charles McKinney, director of Urban Design Department of Parks and Recreation of the City of New York — who shared the Central Park philosophy of public engagement.
Rubio Villanueva said the governor had been receptive to their ideas, and sent an emissary to the forum.
The following February, they met again with the governor, who assured him he would talk to the manager of the railroad company that held the concession on the government-owned property.
That is the last he has talked to the governor. Anything that happened afterwards, they read in the newspaper, like everyone else. And they don’t know how seriously the government is taking their objectives of cultural relevancy.
“We cannot let this slide,” writes Joanna van der Gracht de Rosado, who urges readers to sign a petition supporting the grass-roots civil association’s drive “to win a seat at the table controlled by the state government where park decisions are being made.”
Adding to a sense of urgency is the lack of open space in this densely populated, cement-laden city.
“La Plancha is the only large piece of land close to downtown that is suitable for a park,” says the Canadian-born writer who has lived in Mérida since the mid-1970s. “If we don’t build a park there, we will never have another opportunity.”