The idea was first hatched more than 15 years ago.
In the future, Paris might become as well known for its hiking trails and picnic grounds as it is for its cafes and cobblestone streets.
That’s because an actual wasteland in the north of the city is being transformed into a vibrant park five times the size of Central Park, according to the World Economic Forum.
The Syndicat Mixte d’Aménagement de la Plaine de Pierrelaye-Bessancourt (SMAPP) project was first hatched more than 15 years ago, WEF reports, but the political will to create the park is only now manifesting.
The 5.2 square mile area is located at Pierrelaye-Bessancourt borders roads near the Seine River. For decades, it was sprayed with sewage in a misguided fertilization campaign, which caused widespread soil pollution. The area has also served as an unofficial landfill for Paris, WEF reports.
Now, politicians are calling for the area to be cleaned up, planted with one million trees and various types of vegetation, and sculpted to resemble a world-class park filled with hiking trails and lawns.
Creating the park is expected to take 30 to 50 years and cost $105 million, and those carrying it out are likely to face logistical challenges including having to evict the more than 1,500 trailers currently on the land.
Plus, the land itself has more than 4,000 landowners, according to City Lab, which could be a daunting obstacle as the city tries issuing permits for constrution and other matters.
If completed, the new forest would provide a habitat for animals and reduce air pollution by sucking up carbon dioxide and other contaminants, City Lab notes.
Paris has battled with sometimes severe air pollution over the past several decades because of the preponderance of gas-powered cars driving throughout its busy streets.
As a result, the city has periodically banned cars to mitigate smog levels and it plans to phase out gas cars entirely by 2030.
Bringing more green space to the city will further clean the air.
In addition to being a carbon sink, the forest would also act as a noise filter for Parisians inundated with sounds from highways and bustling urban life.
It could also improve the wellbeing of citizens, according to the National Recreation and Parks Association. Studies have shown that parks in urban spaces relieve stress, increase creativity, and promote communal ties.
“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody,” the famous urban planner Jane Jacobs once wrote.
Transforming a landfill into vibrant park seems like it would bring Paris closer to that goal.