(photo credit: KKL-JNF)
The bridges, which will allow access to hitherto unapproachable areas, link a variety of hiking and cycling paths to the Israel Trail, which crosses the country from north to south, and to the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem Bicycle Trail (built by donations from Friends of KKL-JNF in Canada) that runs from the Yarkon Estuary to Jerusalem. The bridges provide a number of scenic routes for the enjoyment of visitors who come to spend a pleasant day amid the riverside landscapes.
This complex project required the construction of heavy concrete bridges, two of which measure 22 meters in the length, while the other two are 16 meters long. The bridges were transported to the site and installed with the help of giant cranes. For the project to succeed, KKL-JNF had to work in conjunction with a number of other organizations; the Government Tourist Company, the Yarkon River Authority, the Nature and Parks Authority, the Society for the Protection of Nature, the local authorities of Petah Tikva and Ramat HaSharon, and the South Sharon Regional Council.
Israel’s Minister for Environmental Protection Gilad Erdan took part in the inauguration ceremony for the bridges, together with KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler. “The Yarkon is a beauty spot no less attractive than sites in the Negev and Galilee,” said Stenzler. “Everyone who comes here is excited by the opportunity to spend time in natural surroundings so close to home. Our goal is to get people out of the house and into the open countryside – on foot, on a bicycle or in a car.”
In his speech, the Efi Stenzler mentioned KKL-JNF Friends in Australia’s significant contribution to the rehabilitation of the Yarkon and the development of recreational sites along its banks, in the wake of the tragic Maccabiah disaster.
Deputy Director of KKL-JNF’s Central Region Yehiel Cohen said that the bridges’ functional design made each of them an ideal vantage point for observing the river and the life within and around it. He explained that the bridges’ railings are a special feature, as they prevent blockage from occurring when the river is in spate. When the water rises it can flood the bridge, and sediment can clog the railings. When this happens the railing yields to the pressure and allows the water to continue to move down the channel, preventing the formation of dams that could interfere with flow, cause flooding and entail damage to the riverside environment.
Ron Huldai, Mayor of Tel Aviv and Chairman of the Yarkon River Authority, said that apart from taking action to improve the quality of the water in the Yarkon, the River Authority is also fostering leisure activities on its banks. “The bridges will make the sites livelier and more popular. That’s what happened in Tel Aviv after we built bridges over the Yarkon there,” he said.
Yarkon River Authority Director David Pergament explained that the Authority’s task is to rehabilitate the river so that it can be used for leisure activities. “Until now visitors had no convenient means of crossing from one bank to the other,” he told those present.
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The inauguration ceremony and the cutting of the ribbon took place on the bridge adjacent to Beit HaBeton (“the concrete building”), less than a kilometer from the Yarkon Springs, and not far from Petah Tikva. Beit HaBeton is a historic building established in 1912 as the main pumping station for the Petah Tikva farmers’ water supply. It was the first building to be made from reinforced concrete and the first to have a diesel engine and centrifugal pumps installed in it.
The Yarkon River rises near Petah Tikva and flows through areas under the jurisdiction of a number of different local authorities. “It’s a green lung and a natural jewel,” said Petah Tikva Mayor Itzik Ohayon. “We intend to restore the Yarkon to the nation as a convenient and accessible recreation area.”
Moti Daljo, head of the South Sharon Local Council and Hod HaSharon Mayor Chai Adiv spoke at the inauguration ceremony and emphasized their desire to conserve open spaces and increase the public’s appreciation of nature and the environment.
While Minister Gilad Erdan was taking part in the ceremony, the government was busy discussing the findings of the Trajtenberg Social Change Committee. “The inauguration of the bridges is an event of no less importance than all manner of economic measures that don’t necessarily reveal anything about people’s way of life,” said the minister. “Ever since the State was founded, issues of security and industrial development have dominated our agenda. Now it’s time to rectify the mistakes that were made over the years in different areas, including the neglect of Israel’s rivers, which were turned into receptacles for pollutants.”
At the conclusion of his speech the minister said he hoped that Israelis would spend the Sukkot holiday enjoying the variety of new trails that have opened up thanks to the four new bridges over the Yarkon.
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