Pocket parks sprouting up in Athens under new program

Sitting under a birch on a bench made by recycled wood with photovoltaics illuminating the small park after sunset makes everyday life in quarantine a little easier these days for the residents of a neighborhood in Pagrati, central Athens.

The pocket park, which was created in an abandoned space that was a garbage plot for years between blocks of flats, is the third one delivered by the City of Athens lately, while at least ten more are lined up in the next few months.

By setting up pocket parks, green spaces of 100-800 square meters in densely populated neighborhoods of the Greek capital, a city with a small proportion of green spaces per citizens, municipal authorities, supported by private donors, aim to bring change through a series of small-scale interventions, Anna Zilakou, managing director of Athens Partnership, told Xinhua in a recent interview at Pagrati’s new “green jewel.”

The non-profit organization, which promotes partnerships between the private and public sector, assists the City of Athens to secure funding for a series of projects under the “Adopt your City” program, including the mini park initiative.

“The program ‘Adopt your city’ was launched at the end of 2019 and the goal is to involve residents of Athens and visitors, individuals as well as companies, enterprises, institutions or whoever else is interested to contribute to the city’s work and projects and help us improve the quality of life in the city,” Zilakou said.

“This is one of the projects that are part of this program. It started last summer. The idea is to create small parks in highly dense areas throughout the city, where there are not enough green spaces. By creating those spaces, we want to improve the quality of life of the neighborhoods and have an environmental and social impact at the same time,” she explained.

“The thing is with Athens, as with many big cities around the world, that we don’t have large spaces that you can create as parks. They are highly dense, so there are not enough spaces that you change in this way. So, the only possible way is to create many small ones,” she added.

At about 750 square meters with over 1,100 plants and trees, the Pagrati pocket park is the largest created so far. All materials used are environmentally friendly. There are sustainable draining systems to water the trees as well as water sources for visitors, birds and animals.

“Sustainability is in the core of the design of these places. We plan to have more in the next few months, maybe another 10 or so in different neighborhoods (in a year),” Zilakou said.

In addition to the pocket parks, under the “Adopt your City” program, the municipality of Athens collaborates with individuals, organizations and businesses as part of their corporate social responsibility in an anti-graffiti program to clean surfaces of public buildings around the city, and maintain playgrounds, pedestrian sidewalks and public squares.