Over the past few months I have been watching the progress along Ave Jerusalem, and occasionally commenting. First, the city repaved the road, and then they installed a bike lane. An attractive center divider went up, as did small decorative obstacles which prevent cars from driving in the emergency or bike lane (though they also prevent two way traffic in the bike lane in a rather humorous way)
On the west side of Ave Jerusalem there was once an old coffee farm, at the center of which, a community of people lives. When we moved here six months ago several people (separately) told us to avoid getting stuck in traffic on Ave Jerusalem, because armed robbers (who they thought lived in the community) would come out of the farm, rob you while you were stuck in traffic, and run back into the old farm never to be seen again until the next robbery. They said it was a huge problem.
That is not cool, but what the city has done with the farm is
I am still watching development along Ave Jerusalem and today I took a walk through it. That 129 Manzana coffee plantation has been reinvented, and is now a beautiful nature park. It is a preserve for birds, beasts, butterflies and native plants, but is just a few minutes from downtown.
The old plantation is a network of walking, running and mountain-bike trails, which snake through the coffee trees, shade trees,
and orchids, around Communidad La Union II and through inviting picnic areas. When we entered we could see the pride and interest still present from the recent opening. Park attendants seem genuinely happy about the place. I guess it is hard to be mad about tons of kids on bikes riding through the small but lush preserve.
There are play areas for children, exercise equipment along the running trails and scenery for those in the mood for a stroll.
I remember hearing the city was leaving the small community that existed in the center of the plantation in place. I thought, “how odd to live in the middle of a park and basically have your laundry line become a tourist attraction”. I do not know how the people in La Union II feel about the whole thing. Today they looked pretty much as though they like the project.
As we walked up a trail next to the houses, my daughter was constantly tempted to run into people´s yards. To first time visitors,
the small square cinder-block structures, with associated chickens and outhouses, set inside an actual coffee farm, under a canopy of lovely trees full of birds and exotic butterflies, will be a gentle intro to El Salvador.
I cannot help but note that the park is right off the road that many people would take if they drove from the airport to San Salvador for either business or a vacation. More than that, it is an incredibly useful park for everyone in the city who loves the outdoors, and it caters beautifully to a burgeoning fitness culture. Ever since arriving I have been noticed a steady increase in people biking for pleasure and fitness, and people running in the neighborhoods. This park fits that development perfectly.
My husband, who wants desperately to join the Biciclistas Urbanos (A group similar to the San Jose Bike Party he once loved). Maybe the extra riding option will be enough for him to go ahead and buy a bike for himself.
On our walk through we chatted with coffee pickers and sorters (I have no idea why they were picking so many green beans, but that is another topic). We also crossed paths with countless trail runners, with huge smiles on their faces and clearly loving this new place to run. I loved seeing fitness fanatics leaping over the piles of coffee cherries with that youthful joy you see when a child opens a new toy.
The place really is pretty, and should be a source of civic pride. I hope the community keeps it well, and uses it to it´s fullest. The sight of fathers chasing after their children on bikes and the borderline affectionate look some of the caretakers have as they trim the trees softens some of the bad news we get tired of hearing.
The little community inside either has a sweet spot (DUDE! We live in the middle of a sweet PARK!) or a not (Dear God, please don’t let anyone say, “Hi” to me today, and I promise to forgive my sister for stealing my best shirt. Amen)
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