A Walk in the Park at Ecoparque Metropolitano
I never had the occasion to visit Valle Fantástico, the now-defunct amusement park next to the Tec de Monterrey campus on Vía Atlixcayotl, but from what I can tell, there really wasn’t anything all that fantastic about it. Among the park’s lingering remnants is a bizarre structure the shape of a blonde girl lying face-down, blue jean-clad buttocks aimed skyward, a door at her feet. I imagine that the building once served as some sort of “fun house,” though I shutter to think of what awaited visitors inside the horrifyingly huge güerota. (I’ll admit that this may sound absolutely fantastic to some readers, but for me craptastic is far more apt.) Fortunately, the state government recently began transforming Valle Fantástico into an ecological park.
Ecoparque Metropolitano, which was inaugurated in May amid the festivities commemorating the 150th anniversary of Cinco de Mayo, is—as Mexico President Felipe Calderón put it during his visit—“truly a fantastic park.” The green space currently occupies 32 of the 47 acres of land once allotted to Valle Fantástico; the other 15 acres remain the subject of a legal dispute waged by its former operator.
Although Ecoparque Metropolitano is still a work in progress, it’s open now for the public to enjoy. Visitors are welcome to stroll through its various gardens (orchids, cactus, bamboo, regional plants) to admire the diverse flowers and greenery as well as a dozen art sculptures and several natural water-filtration systems. The park also provides access to a cushy new 5.2-kilometer jogging path, made from recycled tires, that runs alongside the Atoyac River between boulevards Niño Poblano and De Las Torres. What’s more, the site is bicycle and dog-friendly (for people who keep their pooches on a leash and pick up after their pets); special park access points are under way.
The ecological park was conceived as part of a plan to rescue the Atoyac River, which for years has been contaminated by illegal dumping. Workers and volunteers removed nearly 9,000 cubic feet of garbage, planted 5,000 trees and 300,000 plants, and hauled in 8,000 tons of compost in order to revitalize the area. Amy Camacho, the state’s environmental secretary, in May told Milenio news that the effort has prompted the return of wildlife, including butterflies, hummingbirds, turtles and other reptiles, and even a pair of hawks. Camacho noted that while the area is safe to visit, people should avoid contact with the water (because environmental remediation takes time).
—Rebecca Smith Hurd
Ecoparque Metropolitano is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. The main entrance is located on Vía Atlixcáyotl next to the Tec de Monterrey campus; ample parking provided. Alternate access behind Cabo San Lucas restaurant near Plaza Palmas (follow the blue MIRAtoyac signs); Paseo del Río is on the other side of the river. Admission is free, but parking costs $10 MXP per vehicle.