State officials inaugurate the beginning of a heavy-duty cleanup at La Plancha. Photo: State government

Mérida, Yucatán — Although workers were picking through the scrap metal last week, Thursday was the ceremonial start to turning a semi-abandoned rail yard into a grand park.

Gov. Rolando Zapata Bello arrived to announce that the physical transformation at La Plancha has begun.

After years of campaigning, prodding and planning by neighbors, volunteers and academics, workers finally are clearing acres of flat, underused space in the Centro. The lot is the last vacant parcel of its size, and one that many feared would be developed into a commercial project.

Instead, Gran Parque La Plancha will be a “green lung,” with trees and recreational and cultural installations stretching several blocks between Calls 46 and 48 east to west, north of the historic train station on Calle 55.

For now, workers are focusing on clearing a 10-hectare/24.6-acre polygon littered with 15,000 tons of abandoned rail cars and parts. Renderings of the future park indicate some rail cars being integrated into the landscape, a tribute to the parcel’s history.

Other cars will be sheltered in a rail “graveyard” more than two kilometers from the Center of Railway Operations of Yucatán in the Poxilá area of Umán.

This first stage of the project required an investment of more than 130 million pesos for permanent cleaning, rehabilitation and restoration of the former train station, which will house the University of Arts of Yucatán.

This initial phase also includes reforestation work, adding trees to largely barren acreage. The park is envisioned as a multipurpose plaza for sports, civic and cultural activities.

Zapata Bello seemed to acknowledge the role of citizens in the creation of the park.

“As a government, we must always guide our actions towards citizen participation, so we must always listen to people to make things happen,” said the governor.

With information from a state-issued press release