By Cecilie Hestbæk, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – In somewhat of an unpublicized process, the Prefeitura (local government) is currently constructing an exclusive ecological park area at the top of Rocinha. To add to the mystery, the road to the park is apparently going to be shielded from the favela by a wall.
When thinking of Rocinha, the largest favela in Rio, most people probably do not get mental image of romantic picnic settings with modern playgrounds and astonishing views. This however, might change in a short period of time.
During the last two years a government construction project on the very top of Rocinha has been reshaping the vast rocks and wild bush areas into a brand new park area resembling that of a wealthy American suburb.
Spotlight-lit trees set the scene in the beautifully constructed plateaus of barbecue-spaces and viewpoints at the mountainside, and only the newly planted, pink flowers stand out from the stylish white and beige colors connecting the terraces to the luxurious bathroom facilities and creatively designed playground.
Amaury Julio Jr. is the manager of Cantero Social de Rocinha. He explains that the Ecological Park is part of a large renovation of the area, and that the government is very eager to get the park ready for inauguration. He explains that the park is going to be open to everyone, but is very thrilled by the significance it will have especially for the Rocinha community.
“We will be able to use the Park as an outdoor classroom for the children. Here they will be able to have Biology and Science classes, and learn about Nature and the environment while they are actually in it” he offers.
Alex Barwinski lives in Rocinha right next to the construction site, and he is sure the Ecological Park is going to be very important to the 300,000 inhabitants of the morro.
“Rocinha doesn’t have any public spaces, so getting a common playground and recreation area is going to meet significant community needs”.
However, just how public the area is going to be, Alex Barwinski has his doubts about. Access to the park, he has learned, will be restricted to “some sort of membership,” perhaps even based on an annual payment.
Also, Alex Barwinski explains, the government is not making it completely clear how the managing of the area is going to function. Obvious to the inhabitants though, a facelift of the whole area around the park has begun, a facelift it seems the government is going to try to protect by building a wall alongside the road that leads to the park and prohibiting any more expansion of the favela in that area.
When the park will be inaugurated remains unclear. According to Amaury Julio Jr. it is going to be very soon. From what Alex Barwinski has been told, the park will not open until within a year from now.
Meanwhile, on top of the ever-pulsating Rocinha, the building of a grandiose amphitheater in one end of the park is almost complete, and a sign informs that the empty building ground across the road is some day soon going to be transformed into a sports arena.