Failed Paris Olympic Bid Site Now a Booming Success as Eco-Friendly Urban Park

paris park windmill photo

The Parc Martin Luther King in Paris' 17th arrondissement. Photo: Jennifer Hattam.

Arriving from the urban jungle of Istanbul, the many neighborhood parks of Paris are literally a breath of fresh air, with their stately trees, colorful blossoms, duck-filled ponds, and contented strollers. Many have been giving city-dwellers a natural respite for hundreds of years, but one of the most impressive is just a few years old, a multi-use, super-eco-friendly green space that would likely not have existed had Paris won its bid for the 2012 Olympics.Bested by London for the honor of hosting the international games, Paris has transformed the would-be home of its Olympic Village in the Clichy-Batignolles area into the lively Parc Martin Luther King. On a recent visit, the former site of industrial warehouses and stockyards was full of people playing basketball and football, kids zooming up and down skate ramps, couples relaxing on wooden lounge chairs set out on the grass, and families picnicking. (Other parts of the park were politely designated off-limits with signs that read "The grass is resting.")

paris park community garden photo

Community garden at the Parc Martin Luther King. Photo: Jennifer Hattam
Community Garden, Rainwater Recycling, And More
According to the website Bonjour Paris, the park is home to 624 trees, including magnolias, cherry trees, apple trees, and dogwoods; 5,600 shrubs; 47,000 bulbs; and 8,400 square meters of lawn. And a colorful community garden of herbs, vegetables, and flowers isn't the only sustainable feature the park boasts:

Construction priorities include emphasis on carbon usage approaching zero, solar panel[s] and wind turbines, rainwater recycling, waste management, and low-maintenance regional plants and shrubs... Walkways made of reconstituted waste material align with attractive ponds while rivulets display water fowl and fish. Tall wispy cattail reeds succeed at times in hiding some of the surrounding high-rises, thus engendering a feel of rustic and rural.

paris park reed marsh photo

Reed marsh area at the Parc Martin Luther King. Photo: Jennifer Hattam

The city plans to further develop the area to include apartments, office space, shops, schools, and an expanded metro line, according to blogger Peter's Paris, but the park, which will be further enlarged, will remain a centerpiece of the "ecological" development in line with Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoë's goal to "emphasize the essentials of what a green space really is: a corner for nature in the heart of our city, one that is beautiful, fragile, and productive."

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