The project was implemented thanks to the Fifth Program of the European Union.
In partnership with the Danish Forest Landscape Research Institute, Hoersholm, Denmark, working in close collaboration with Human Ecology Department, Free University Brussels, Belgium, Earth Forever worked on the research project Advancing the Quality of Life and the Environment of European Cities through Socially-inclusive Planning and Design of Urban Woodlands. The Ayazmo Park near Stara Zagora (together with other parks in Belgium, Finland, Great Britain, Italy and Sweden) served as a case study to analyze contemporary urban woodland resources, their interaction with society, and planning, design and management of the selected case study areas.
Various scientific tools were implemented during the project:
- Thematic maps in GIS format. These were prepared with the support of experts from Landscape Ecology Department of the University of Florence, Italy and students from Landscape Architecture Department of the Forestry University, Sofia. Italian methodology was specially adopted and published into Bulgarian for the need of the field work.
- Vision Interviews. This was developed on the bases of 25 very detailed vision interviews had been made, recorded, put into paper and translated. The interviewed people delivered a little bit more than 1 hour of their time to contribute to the NeighborWood project. These interviews served as a public input (draft Vision of the Development of the Park) for the Thinking Days (discussion of municipal experts towards the Vision).
- Video Interviews. 23 people had been interviewed in front of a video camera to answer questions about usage and future vision of the park.
- Thinking Days. Three expert meetings were organized with municipal experts – acting and retired. These helped the Municipal officers (incl. the Mayor of the Municipality and his two Deputies) to become very attached to the final product and eager to start its implementation.
- Skill Share. This was a meeting of municipal experts with experts from EU – Denmark, Belgium and Italy. During the Skill Share information was provided about various programs of EU providing various support to projects in urban management and green areas management.
Additional to the expert work, the project provided a multistakeholder platform for all interested parties (with emphasis on young people) to take part in the decision-making, design and management of the Ayazmo Park:
Youth Debate. This was organized in the form of a youth round organized in collaboration with Youth Municipal Council and Children Parliament in Stara Zagora. The venue was the City Hall. More than 35 local and regional institutions, schools and NGOs took part. Youth people showed great interest and motivation, they shared their vision and opinion with municipal and NGO experts. Exhibition of 23 children drawings had been organized during the Youth Round table with drawings of children’s vision of Ayazmoto, provided by the Children Parliament.
Stories of the park. More than 95 citizens of Stara Zagora have been interviewed and asked to tell a personal Story about the Park. About 10 of these were made with selected story tellers. The total of 24 Stories have been made. 12 of the Stories were published in a full color Calendar together with 12 pictures of the Park of various seasons.
Children essays. 28 children essays and drawings about Ayazmoto were made by the primary school children of St. Nikonay School.
Exhibition. Public exhibition was organized in the central lobby of the City Hall. The goal was to expose the visual materials collected during the implementation of the Project and never shown to public until now - children drawings and children essays on 6 tables (1m x 0.8m); summary information about the project and the actors on 2 tables (1m x 0.8m), the full text of the Vision in Bulgaria.
Drop-in Event. It took place in the park: at a children play-ground near the Summer Theatre. It was organized in collaboration with Youth Municipal Council and the Municipal Administration. Preliminary preparation was made to involve as many people as possible not only to be interviewed but also to provide some voluntary labor for the park: balloons were hang to attract attention from the Frogs to the site of the event; paints and brushes had been bought to make possible that citizens renovate the play ground implementing voluntary labor. Various tools had been used to interview visitors: three trees had been packed with bright color paper for post-its with citizen opinions, maps of the park and info for the NeighborWood project were provided; map to indicate where visitors come from was provided. Citizens had the chance to give opinion for the maintenance and management of the park at the moment and its future.
Wide Public Workshop and a Follow-up Public Workshop. Young people, citizens, businessmen, media people, took part in this process. The workshop was facilitated by an experienced facilitator who guided the audience through the difficult task to propose concrete Tasks to meet various previously formulated Directions in the Draft Vision. The Workshop was open for representatives of the media. The Follow-up Workshop was organized a month later, closing the loop of receiving suggestions from the citizens – discussing them among experts – providing feed-back to the interested citizens.
As a result of this whole process, shared Vision for the management and maintenance of the Ayazmo Park was developed and published.
The Vision was officially launched:
Meeting the high interest of the three groups of local partners involved: citizens, Municipality, media, in the Visionary Process, a special effort was made to present the final Vision to the citizens of Stara Zagora. There were several events that marked the end of the project and the finalization of the Vision:
Park Vision Launching event with dissemination of brochures for the Vision, posters and maps of the Park. In a sunny and warm Sunday when thousands of citizens visited the park to enjoy the warm day gifted by God. The interest was really enormous.
School Vision Launching with lessons of the park in 11 schools with dissemination of specially produced educational materials for the park and promotional materials for the Vision and the NWs Project.
Dissemination of the final project documents to participating in the Visionary Process citizens and experts.
Launching Vision presentation in Internet, www.earthforever.org.
Press-conference attended by the Mayor and the two Deputy Mayors, the municipal officers actively involved, and young people to answer various questions of the media (TV, radio, newspapers).
Various publication materials have been written (together with the European experts, citizens, municipal officials, young people), designed, published, officially presented to the public and disseminated (hard and soft copies are attached):
Vision (Bulgarian), full color.
Vision (English), full color.
Brochure for the Vision, full version.
Map for the citizens (Bulgarian, full color.
Lesson Brochure about Ayazmoto (past, current status and future development) was developed and printed to be used for a special lesson for the Park in 11 schools in Stara Zagora.
Story Calendar (Bulgarian).