Prague’s biggest and most popular park is being devastated by the Blanka tunnel construction.
Stromovka, Prague’s biggest and one of its oldest parks, suffered a terrible blow this weekend when piece of ground caved in due to tunnel construction that is happening underneath the park. A 15 metre-deep, 20 metre-wide crater now gapes near the park’s Šlechtova restaurant.
No one was injured, but still, there are several reasons why this incident is disturbing: 1/ Stromovka is a designated natural monument – why was tunnel construction underneath it even allowed in the first place? 2/ This already happened once before in May – why hasn’t the developer taken greater precautions? 3/Stromovka has only recently completed its long recovery from the devastating 2002 floods, which left the park’s paths, ponds and vegetation badly damaged.
Although there were local protests before the construction of the CZK 26 billion Blanka road tunnel began, with preservationists worrying about the impact it would have on the park’s eco system as well as on the local residents’ quality of life, Metrostav, the developer, was given green light to start building in 2007. Now, following the latest cave-in, Prague Mayor Pavel Bém suddenly wants to file a complaint – not against the developer – but against an unknown perpetrator. Meanwhile, authorities are investigating the cause of the collapse.
It’s hard to say just what Bém’s ridiculously populist gesture is meant to accomplish. Tunnel construction, which is part of the planned ring-road commissioned by City Hall, will continue. How many more craters can we expect? By the time the 6 km-long tunnel is finished in 2011, Stromovka could very well resemble a lunar landscape. But at least it will be sitting atop the Czech Republic’s longest tunnel.
But even one crater is too much in park with such long tradition. Formerly called Královská obora (Royal Park), it was founded in 1268 by King Ottokar II of Bohemia. In 1320, a small chateau was built in the south end of the park, and the area was used as royal hunting ground.
The park’s Šlechtova restaurant, which now serves as backdrop to the crater and is in a state of desolate disrepair, dates back to 1689. Stromovka became a proper public park in 1804 when it was opened to all Praguers and quickly became the city’s most popular recreational area.
In light of this long history, City Hall’s willingness to put the existence of the park in jeopardy by digging a massive tunnel under it is truly baffling.