Haifa Planning New Park Over Cleared-out Wadi Roshmiye

Haifa is planning to take advantage of the natural beauty of a relatively isolated riverbed, known as Wadi Roshmiye, by transforming it into a park that will have an artificial lake and rappelling center. Roads will be paved along both sides of the park, linking the lower section of the city with the Carmel and Neve Sha'anan neighborhoods.

"The stream has been neglected for many years," said Haifa city engineer Ariel Waterman, "but this is one of the city's gems. The area is rich in wild growth and high cliffs, and the stream comes alive in winter."

Waterman said a dam will be built to divert rainfall and create a lake where the winter rains will accumulate. The city plans to put up benches and other features around the lake for visitors to enjoy.

The plan also calls for the creation of a rappelling center, which will allow visitors to take advantage of the cliffs surrounding the area.

The overall cost of the project is estimated at NIS 6 million, and will be funded by both the Ministry of Transportation and Carmelton, a firm that won the tender to build the Carmel Mountain tunnels.

The planned road will be 2.3 kilometers long, and offer a shorter alternative to those traveling from the lower part of the city to Carmel and Neve Sha'anan. The construction of the road, which began recently, will cost an estimated NIS 180 million; it is expected to be completed by late 2012.

Wadi Roshmiye is on the eastern side of Haifa, in the foothills below Neve Sha'anan and Halisa. During the early 20th century, the families of worker employed in the lower city and the port lived there, and in the 1950s dozens of families who emigrated from North Africa and Eastern Europe moved there, living next to Arab families. Most were evacuated in the 1980s.

Until recently, the only two people who lived in Wadi Roshmiye enjoyed the nature and isolation, away from the bustle of the city.

Yusef and Amana Hasan, 87 and 75 respectively, have lived there for the past 50 years and were finally convinced to move following a drawn-out struggle.

Now that the digging of the tunnels through the Carmel Mountain has been completed, the two agreed to move to an apartment the municipality gave them in exchange - which will be an improvement in their living conditions. The lived without any electricity and until recently, without running water.

Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav said the planned space will be like a Central Park for Haifa. "Very few people know about this beautiful spot, and those only from their days in the youth movements," Yahav said.

Yahav stressed that the lower city needed a park and that the changes in the roads in the area will make it more accessible to residents.