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Territory of paradoxes. What future awaits Kanonerskiy Island

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In a second reading, deputies of St. Petersburg’s parliament have included part of the island into the protected parks category. Earlier, eco-activists had been petitioning for creation of the park. Valuable specimens of maple, birch and рябиновых trees have been found at Kanonerskiy. But the project goes beyond simply creating a park. Alexander Odintsov found out how the Kanonerskiy Island will look in the future.

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Alexander Odintsov, reporter: “Kanonerskiy Island is a territory of paradoxes. It’s close to historic St. Petersburg, but isolated by active factories. It only takes a short underwater tunnel to traverse from postcard areas of the Northern Capital to dull urban landscapes. That is in fact the only way to get here. From its other side, activists have been campaigning for a sizeable recreation area, based by the Gulf of Finland. And recently, deputies of the city’s parliament rubberstamped the idea to include 50 hectares of Kanonerskiy island in the list of public parks”.

For the time being, this land is either empty or crammed with construction waste. The strip of land between the Sea Canal, the Gulf of Finland and parking garages looks deserted and unattractive. Local youths sometimes hang around there, but most of the residents usually stay away from there – even during summer white nights.

Daniil Ken, deputy “Morskiye Vorota”: “It happened so that this territory attracted no interest from either Sea Port, or Vodokanal or business community, which could have set up a park here. No interest whatsoever”

The port scene here is generated not by cruise ships, but by cargo vessels and oil tankers, with trucks rushing about to supply them. Moreover, parts of the WSD highway are situated above the island, but its residents will not be able to use it to get home – exits were not planned. Activists tried in the early summer to persuade the Planning committee to change the blueprint, but the plea was rejected. The fight went on up until October. The voices of 5 thousand residents were heard and parliamentary majority voted for it.

The third reading in the Legislative Council is ahead, I hope it’ll be successful. After that the law will be laid in front of the governor and he’ll sign it. This will be a small victory for us.

A park town at Kanonerskiy is still the architects’ fantasy. Looking at the current state of things, these ideas seem surreal. One of the more promising ideas is the creation of a naval park. Pedestrian zones, a beach and even an outdoor cinema, right on the shores of the Gulf of Finland. As well as a flower garden in the middle of the island and Dutch-style residential blocks. And those behind the projects are not willing to part ways with the Soviet architectural heritage.

Sergey Padalko, author of Naval Park project at Kanonerskiy Island: “Besides the park, we’re thinking of residencies – but special ones, located on floating platforms. The idea of having a park at Kanonerskiy Island dates back to 1930s, courtesy of architect Baranov. It was even put on a city plan, but it was later altered a few times.

There is a number of other ideas. One was called “the Island of Remembrance”, but locals are unlikely to admire it. Those behind the idea suggested solving the problem of overcapacity at the city’s cemeteries. They plan on building a crematorium at the island, right amid the green parks. In any case, there is a lot of space for creativity allocated by the lawmakers – 50 hectares. Project designers, green activists and architects are sure that those will flip the island’s life upside down, turning it into one of the popular spots as opposed to an isolated corner. 

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