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La Plancha leader fears 14 million pesos in funding will vanish

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Luis Francisco of Plant for the Planet, and Felix A. Rubio Villanueva, president of Gran Parque La Plancha AC, pose behind a scale model of the future park. Photo: Diario de Yucatán

Mérida, Yucatán — Federal money earmarked for trees, irrigation, lighting and sidewalks is in danger of being withdrawn, said Felix Villanueva, president of the Gran Parque La Plancha civic association.

The group and various neighbors for years have pushed authorities to turn old railroad yards east of the Centro into an urban park, but work there has been stalled.

The federal money represents half of the total funding that was promised to rejuvenate the acreage behind the historic train station. The state administration, also under new leadership since the election, had promised the other 50 percent.

Now the association has to make its case before new officials. The incoming presidential administration under Andrés Manuel López Obrador is promising an austerity plan throughout Mexico, as had Yucatán’s new state government under Gov. Mauricio Vila Dosal.

The Gran Parque group has a new political landscape to deal with since work at La Plancha stopped after initial attempts at clearing old tracks and rail cars.

About 5,000 tons of refuse remains at the site, Villanueva said.

The group has yet to meet with any new officials to gauge their commitment to the project.

If the Secretariat of Agrarian, Territorial and Urban Development (Sedatu) doesn’t match the federal funds, the money returns to federal coffers and the application process starts again from scratch.

“This is unsettling for us,” Villanueva said.

Advocates for the park often compare their plans with New York City’s Central Park. But Central Park doesn’t rely solely on government money.

In fact, Central Park was in rapid decline until the Central Park Conservancy was founded in 1980.

The conservancy is a private, nonprofit organization that manages Central Park under a contract with the city of New York and its parks department. Civic and philanthropic leaders have funneled more than US$800 million toward the restoration of the park and provide 75 percent of the park’s US$65 million annual operating budget.

The conservancy is responsible for all basic care of the 843-acre Manhattan park.

With information from Punto Medio, Central Park Conservancy 

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