(photo credit: KKL-JNF)
Perfect weather greeted the dignitaries and cyclists who came to participate in the inauguration ceremony of the new bicycle trail in Jerusalem Metropolitan Park on Friday, October 28. The park, which will eventually cover an area of 15,000 dunams, will create a ring of open spaces around Jerusalem, creating 'green lungs' within the city's urban fabric.
At the ceremony, KKL-JNF's Gidi Bashan spoke about the bike trail and described plans for the future. "Today, we will be dedicating the first five kilometers of a bike path that will eventually be 42 kilometers long and encircle all of Jerusalem. Today, the bike trail is ten kilometers long; five kilometers there and five kilometers back, almost all on an asphalt path. For more experienced bike riders, there will also be a steep, one and a half kilometer climb to KKL-JNF's nearby 9/11 memorial. Work is now proceeding on the first 23 kilometers of the trail, following the north-west-south axis.
"KKL-JNF is a leading partner of a group of five entities, including the Prime Minister's Office, the Jerusalem Municipality, the Jerusalem Development Authority and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, all of whom are responsible for Jerusalem Metropolitan Park. KKL-JNF focuses on planning, park visitor management and project implementation. In addition, we are presently working on the restoration of two local streambeds, Nahal Sorek and Nahal Refa'im, and we are also responsible for planting trees throughout the park. Needless to say, all of the park's bicycle trails, including the trail we are inaugurating today, were planned and executed by KKL-JNF.
"The park will greatly improve the quality of life of everyone who lives in the vicinity, and will become a site that attracts people from all over the country. Beautifying Jerusalem is a major KKL-JNF priority, and we look forward to partnering with our friends in various countries throughout the world in furthering Jerusalem Metropolitan Park development. As is the case everywhere in Israel, our overseas supporters enable and facilitate our work by adopting specific projects."
Speaking at the ceremony, Nir Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem, said that he rode here by bike from his house in Jerusalem. "On my way here, I saw more joggers and cyclists in the streets of the city this morning than there were a couple years ago. Only three years ago, Jerusalem Metropolitan Park was an idea on paper that seemed very difficult to translate into reality, because so many different entities were involved. Today, we are dedicating the fulfillment of that vision, which is a very important part of our city's future.
"It was not and it will not be easy to raise the necessary funds for all the projects that will eventually be carried out in the park. We are depending on organizations like KKL-JNF to support us in the future, as they have until now. The park will help transform Jerusalem into a more beautiful, healthier and inviting city. Happy riding!"
Mayor Barkat also welcomed Mr. Bjarne Riis, a special guest from Denmark. Mr. Riis came in first place in the Tour de France of 1996 and is currently in Israel on a personal trip.
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Moshe Leon, the chairman of the Jerusalem Development Authority, said that the dedication ceremony was a real festival for the city of Jerusalem: "We are
promoting Jerusalem as an international city featuring tourism, quality of life and culture. When completed –we hope by the end of 2012 - this bicycle trail will be the longest in Israel. I would like to thank all the organizations that have taken part in this endeavor, and to the people from KKL-JNF, especially Gidi Bashan and Hanoch Zoref, who have been our partners from the word 'go'."
Rahel Fastman, who lives in Jerusalem's Katamon neighborhood, said that she was cycling for another reason besides recreation: "I'm getting in to shape, because on November 6, I'll be riding in 'Wheels of Love', the international bike ride to support the children of Alyn Hospital for pediatric and adolescent rehabilitation."
David Lazarus, KKL-JNF's chief financial officer was also at the ceremony, not in his official capacity, but as a dedicated bike lover: "I first discovered bike riding as a sport when I was in England from 1987 to1990. I go riding with a group of about ten every weekend. It's an excellent way to clear your head after a crazy work week. I have to say that when we go riding, I get a lot of compliments from my friends for the bike trails KKL-JNF has created and is creating all over Israel. It makes me proud to work for KKL-JNF and I also feel proud of our supporters worldwide, who provide us with a great deal of the funds necessary for all our projects in general, and for the Jerusalem Municipal Park especially."
Mazal Madhala, Yehudit Halumi and Nava Tzuma work at the Ministry of Agriculture in Rehovot and received invitations to the inauguration ceremony. "I like to cycle when I have some spare time," Nava said, "and I'm really looking forward to enjoying the new trails in this breathtaking park."
"And if we don't manage to ride our bicycles ten kilometers back and forth," Mazal added, "we can always walk. The scenery here is certainly pretty enough!"
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