Green protests suspend work on Israeli beach promenade
Residents and green groups say work will reduce quality of Herzliya beach as well as reduce the number of people able to enjoy it.
The Herzliya Municipality temporarily halted work on a planned beachfront promenade this week after residents and green groups voiced concern that it will reduce the amount of beach available for swimming.
In response to a request from the Israel Union for Environmental Defense (Adam Teva V’Din), the municipality agreed to stop the work while it examines whether the project will in fact harm the beach or reduce access to it.
The municipality originally approved the promenade on the theory that it would allow more people to enjoy the beach. But because this particular strip of beach, which runs alongside a group of hotels, is already very narrow, residents fear it could have the opposite effect.
The first section of the promenade, an 800-meter stretch beginning at the city’s marina, was completed more than a year ago. But in that section, the beach is very wide, so the plan aroused no public opposition.
Two weeks ago, however, work on the second stage began. And this stage, slated to cover a 700-meter stretch of beach below the hotels, sparked an immediate outcry.
Residents and green groups voiced two main concerns. First is that because the beach is so narrow, the 10-meter-wide promenade will cut significantly into the sandy area available for swimmers, thus reducing the number of people able to enjoy the beach. The second is that when waves crash against the promenade, the force with which they are flung back out to sea will cause them to carry more sand away, undermining the quality of the beach.
“Once the strip of beach is eroded, who will fix it, and when?” asked Moshe Perlmutter of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, which also objects to the project, in a separate letter to the municipality. “As is well known, the damage the marina did to Herzliya’s beaches has not been repaired to this day. ... On a narrow beach like that in the northern section of the relevant area, a built-up promenade is liable to reduce the strip of beach that serves beach-goers.”
But Netanel Ben-Itzhak, the promenade’s architect, rejected this claim. Only a small section of the promenade will intrude on the sand at all, he said, and even that section will penetrate only 2.5 meters into the beach.
Moreover, he said, the promenade will be built in terraced form, so it won’t forcefully repel the waves in a way that would damage the beach.
Yariv Fischer, chairman of the Herzliya Municipal Tourism Development Corporation, which is building the promenade, also rejected another claim raised by some environmentalists: that the work would damage a natural cliff. Fischer said that when the hotels were built, the earth dug out of their foundations was piled up into an embankment, and the walkway will be built atop this earthen embankment rather than along the natural cliff.
“We can’t think only about those who are capable of walking barefoot on the beach,” he added. “This is a municipal beach, and we must enable access to everyone.”