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Park HaMesilah is good; let’s make it great

Park HaMesilah (Eli Zazon)

The Train Track Park (Park HaMesilah) is Jerusalem’s version of New York City’s High Line. Running along the former Jaffa-Jerusalem railway, it connects the First Station (Tachana Rishona) to Teddy Stadium in Malcha.

Park HaMesilah is a success by most measures. It attracts tens of thousands of locals and tourists by serving as a safe walking/cycling path away from cars and noise.

A decade since it first opened, however, the park’s shortcomings are apparent. Here’s how to make it great…

1. Improve the walking path

Most of the walking path is the width of the former train tracks. That permits two people to walk comfortably side-by-side, but is less than ideal for anything more (groups of 3+, strollers, wheelchairs, etc.).

The problem can be solved by increasing the width of the walking area, as already exists in a small section of the park (pictured below). As an added benefit, improving the walking path would also improve the bike lane.

A widened stretch of the Park HaMesilah walking path. (Eli Zazon)

2. Clear the bike lane

The bike lane in Park HaMesilah as it exists today is very good. The main issue goes back to the walking path. Because there’s such a lack of space to walk, the public naturally migrates to the bike lane.

On one hand, who could blame people for wanting to walk on the wider path? On another, it defeats the purpose of a dedicated bike lane. Aside from the danger associated with walking in a bike lane, it also carries a 100-shekel fine, but I’ve never actually seen that law enforced.

The narrow walking path and lack of walking options may not be the only factors, though…

3. Add more shade

Much of the bike lane is closely lined with shade-giving plane trees (pictured below), making it much more appealing on hot days to pedestrians than the exposed walking path.

A shaded and unshaded stretch of Park HaMesilah. (Eli Zazon)

Adding more trees wouldn’t just increase shade, it would add all of the other benefits that come when cities plant trees: cooler surroundings, increased property values, cleaner air, etc.

4. Increase green diversity

While we’re adding plants, why not increase the diversity of what exists? Colorful flowers, fragrant plants, fruit/vegetable gardens… The possibilities are endless. Any given stretch of the park could be varied by adding to the plant life alone.

Variety would foster curiosity and a sense that there’s always more to explore. When you give people a reason to keep walking, they probably will.

5. Build water features

Water is cooling, inviting, and softens a space. And while Jerusalem has its share of fountains, in a climate like this, it’s never enough.

Park HaMesilah is an ideal place for interactive water features. Think less Trevi Fountain in Rome and more something like what was built on the High Line. Even a series of water misters can be refreshing and doesn’t require an expensive design firm to implement.

The list of possible additions to Park HaMesila is endless, but I believe this list of 5 could be the impetus necessary to make the park more welcoming, interesting, attractive, and great.

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