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Trees win over official stubbornness.

16 of February '23

Twenty-five trees on one of the main streets in the center of Poznańwill be saved. This is the success of community activists and residents who fought for them since June. The stubbornness of the city authorities and planners was overcome thanks to the decision of the General Directorate of Environmental Protection. It is just a pity that the design of public space continues in such an ill-considered manner.

We wrote about the case of the twenty-seven Turkish hazel trees, which were first to go under the axe, and then - partially replanted, among other things, here. The trees have been growing for forty years in December 27 Street, which is now undergoing reconstruction as part of a major revaluation of downtown streets. It has been carried out since 2017 under the name Project Downtown, according to a competition entry by Studio ADS.

Last year, when we learned the detailed solutions of the project (the competition work was conceptual), it turned out that the row of hazel trees between Gwarna and Ratajczaka Streets is to be replaced by newly planted plane trees - only that.... at twice the spacing. Next door, a second, completely new row of plane trees was planned in parallel. The life of the existing trees was thus subordinated by the designers to aesthetic unification. Socialists and naturalists from the Freedom Square Association and the ZaZieleń Poznań Coalition protested against the removal of the hazel trees . They pointed out that it makes no sense to remove specimens that have been growing for a long time and have proven that they can cope with harsh urban conditions. The petition in defense of the trees was signed by 12,000 Poznań residents.

fast, because clearing!

However, the city and planners resisted. Contrary to the facts, they reported that the growing hazel trees would interfere with the planned underground infrastructure. They pointed out that there was no time to change the project, which - co-financed by EU funds - must be settled by the end of 2023. The magistrate also referred to the opinion of an expert it hired, who claimed that the condition of the trees was bad and they could be removed. However, the inventories of naturalists working with protesting social activists showed otherwise.

Ulica 27 Grudnia w Poznaniu, przebudowa, grudzień 2022 r.

27 Grudnia Street in Poznań, reconstruction, December 2022. - Leszczyny between Kantaka and Gwarna streets

photo: Jakub Głaz

Eventually, last December, the Regional Directorate for Environmental Protection did not agree to the felling and replanting of hazel trees . The city therefore appealed to the General Directorate of Environmental Protection. And - it fell. The GDOŚ has just upheld the decision of the provincial level. The Freedom Square Association comments in a strong way on its Facebook profile.

The City Council has not obtained permission to remove hazel trees!!! So it can neither cut them down, nor replant them, and it has to start the entire agreement procedure from scratch and in a different version. Now not only is there no permission, but also there is no time. The hazel trees are staying because the breeding season is about to begin. This is no longer a matter of officials' will, it is a procedural necessity. Let's remember that leaving these trees is not an act of goodwill on the part of the authorities and a response to public expectations. It's a necessity faced by the incompetent PIM and BKPiRM [Poznań Municipal Investments and the Office for Coordination of Projects and Urban Revitalization - editor's note]. Let's also remember that they don't care about these trees, and as part of satisfying their ambition and lack of knowledge, they are able to destroy these trees.

Have they learned nothing?

In seeking to remove the hazel trees, the city thus lost several months. They could have been used to change the design, which will now be necessary anyway. Meanwhile, work on 27 Grudnia Street is already underway, albeit at a similarly sluggish pace as on previously started sections of the Center Project (a few days ago, Poznań residents learned of further delays in work on neighboring Swiety Marcin Street). Aneta Mikolajczyk of the Zazieleń Poznań Coalition, which has been involved in the defense of the hazelnut trees from the beginning, supplements the Association's information:

At a meeting held recently, Deputy Mayor Jędrzej Solarski assured us that most of the trees will not be cut down. Only two specimens are to disappear - for fire safety reasons. Twenty-five will remain, and the Authority is to discuss further steps with us at the next meeting, which has already been tentatively announced.

It's just a pity that it's only now that the City Hall has begun to talk more seriously with the social side. In recent years, the dialogue regarding changes in the center has almost completely died down. Residents are therefore surprised every now and then by design decisions not clearly communicated beforehand, as imperfect as those in the first stage of the reconstruction of Swiety Marcin Street completed in 2019.

Ulica 27 Grudnia w Poznaniu, przebudowa, grudzień 2022 r.

27 Grudnia Street in Poznań, reconstruction, December 2022.

photo: Jakub Głaz

It seemed logical that after partial criticism of this revaluation (partial, because there are also many good aspects), officials and architects from Studio ADS would do their best to make the next stages more refined. What is happening, however, is different. One is surprised by both the insufficient amount of low greenery, the perpetuation of automobile transit through the center (its elimination was announced back in the 1990s!), poor solutions for cyclists, clumsy forms of small architecture, and the not very sensible use of various types of pavement. If it weren't forthe social energy and reflexes of the associations, we would also be wringing our hands over the felled hazel trees today.

Jakub Głaz

The vote has already been cast