Kishon Park Plan Approved Despite Port’s Opposition

Zafrir Rinat
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Cormorants circling the Kishon River near the Haifa Oil Refinery in 2009.Credit: Yaron Kaminsky
Zafrir Rinat

The Haifa District’s Planning and Building committee on Monday approved the filing of a plan designed by the Kishon River Authority, which aims to build a 250-acre park along the river, between the fishing anchorage and Histadrut Boulevard.

This decision constituted significant progress towards the final approval of the plan, which is now open to public objections. The agency expected to object is the Israel Ports Company, which holds a lease on some of the area designated as parkland, intending to use it for storage of containers. The Ministry for Environmental Protection supported Monday's decision.

The area approved for the park is the last green reserve in the lower part of the stream, possessing unique natural value. This area will be added to a smaller park near the fishing anchorage. Another park is planned in an area further to the east, but this will come at the expense of agricultural land.

Over the last months a public campaign was waged by green groups, headed by the Society for Protection of Nature in Israel, in favor of establishing the Kishon Park. This followed an agreement reached between the Environmental Protection Ministry and the Ports Company regarding a much smaller park, leaving much of the area for storage of containers. The ministry supported this move in the belief that it would be impractical to approve a larger park without finding alternate storage sites.

In Monday's meeting, the committee heard a report by ecologist Prof. Avital Gazit, who noted that the lower stream contains special habitats for flora and fauna that are typical of salty soil. It is one of the last remaining such areas in Israel, a place most suitable for observing water fowl. The river banks can be rehabilitated so that the park could become a unique public attraction.

According to the committee’s decision, professional teams from agencies connected to the plan, such as the Haifa municipality, the Interior Ministry’s Planning Authority and the Israel Land Authority, will seek alternative areas to those needed by the Ports Company. According to the Haifa municipality there are some options near Kiryat Ata, but it’s unclear if the Ports Company will agree to this more distant location.

During the debate, Port Company representatives said the Yarkon River Authority doesn’t have legal power to promote similar projects within its jurisdiction. Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav said the Haifa municipality will take charge of advancing the plan. The Port Company did not comment on Monday's decision, stating that it had not yet received it.