In Mexico City, something big is taking shape: an urban park encompassing 14,388 hectares (around 35,000 acres) known as the Texcoco Lake Ecological Park (PELT, by its Spanish acronym). To put that into perspective for you, that’s an area around 41 times the size of New York City’s Central Park, and around 34 times the size of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. When complete, it is expected to become the world’s largest urban park.
Fittingly enough for a project of this size, the plans are grand in scope. Not only will the park planned for this reclaimed land include reforested areas for hiking and biking, restored wetlands and lakes for water sports and wildlife, family picnicking shelters and soccer fields (of course!), plans for the PELT include renewable energy installations, community gardens, wastewater treatment facilities, and a research center for the study of wetlands.
The project, accordingly, has marshaled the talents of a virtual army of engineers, scientists, engineers, biologists, chemists, ecologists, architects, urban planners, landscapers and politicians, headed up by noted Mexican landscape architect Iñaki Echeverria, who was commissioned to design the park. Echeverria was presented with a unique opportunity with this project, as the park will occupy the basin of a former lake (Lake Texcoco) that dried up as Mexico City grew, but still proved unmanageable for human habitation, due to poor infrastructure and the city’s notorious annual flooding.
By restoring much of “the most abandoned area of Mexico City” to its former state as a lake/wetlands, the city will not only be creating a whole lot of free outdoor recreation opportunities for its families, but tackle some key water issues that have long dogged the area. That’s because this giant park centered in one of the city’s lowest points will help to regulate the entire Metropolitan Zone of Mexico City during extreme storm scenarios, treat stormwater run-off via natural wetlands, and increase aquifer recharging through the use of reinjection wells in federal zones.
The goal, in short, is to reclaim the site as the most important green piece of infrastructure in the valley. The Texcoco Lake Ecological Park is intended to become a tangible symbol of how Mexico as a whole can become an integral part of nature’s processes and aid in the proper functioning of the landscape.
It may seem ironic that a project designed to restore an area to a more natural state would require major construction, but it’s important to remember that this landscape has already undergone hundreds of years of alteration from its former natural state. The PELT was designed not to return to the area to an untouched ecosystem — which hardly seems possible, considering that fact that it’s surrounded by a city of over 20 million people — but to create a large natural area within the city that helps to balance the infrastructure associated with all those people with the needs of the landscape itself.
Transportation within the park will be centered around bike paths and trails, with single-family vehicles restricted to the center of the park; wind power, solar energy, biofuels (algae and wastes) and thermal fuels (waste) are all under consideration.