Neighbors agree to monitor progress as La Plancha clearing hits snag

A rare chance to tour the historic train station is this Saturday. Photo: David Stansbury
A rare chance to tour the historic train station is this Saturday. Photo: David Stansbury

Mérida, Yucatán — Just over half of the 68 stranded freight cars and locomotives that littered La Plancha are still there, and progress has already stalled.

State officials blame a delay in obtaining special equipment, and also have said the adjacent art-school project is a larger priority than the park.

La Plancha’s neighbors aren’t trusting the government to make the Gran Parque happen without citizen supervision.

Gran Parque La Plancha AC, the civil association that successfully lobbied to turn acres of Centro wasteland into a local version of Central Park, will permanently supervise the project, members agreed Saturday.

Yucatán Gov. Rolando Zapata Bello lowered the flag on the site-clearing project on Feb. 8, a week after workers started clearing 53 rail cars, 15 locomotives and 15,000 tons of metal. Less than a week after the ceremony, work was suspended until special equipment arrived to move the heaviest objects, which weigh about 40 tons.

That equipment was expected to arrive by now, but hasn’t, which is why at least one association member says the land essentially looks unchanged.

“It’s still the same,” said Arturo Novelo Dorantes, a former member of the association, adding that he’s there every day “and I do not see progress in the clearing. Yes, we see people weeding, but not moving rail cars…”

According to the state government, through a press release, priority was given to the evacuation and cleaning of the train station platform area to begin the construction of the University of the Arts of Yucatán in the historic former train station adjacent to the future park.

While state workers clear the grounds of rubbish and begin reforesting the land, volunteers will monitor progress every day, watching for work delays, diversions of resources or any anomaly that doesn’t reflect the master plan.

The 2016 La Plancha Master Plan (PDF download) divides the area into seven zones, with “area A,” from Calle 43 to 39 between 50 and 42, reserved for art and culture. That’s where the lot gets wider, where the abandoned trains are.

Members were also asked to attend cultural events in the area as a sign of citizen participation.

The meeting was opened to different proposals and opinions in the spirit of a participatory democracy. A possible name for the park was discussed and cultural activities were proposed that would integrate more citizens into the project.

Young people and children are relevant to the discussion, members agreed, because they will be inheriting this park.

Also at the meeting, which was attended by around 80 residents, Felix Rubio Villanueva was re-elected as the association’s president.

Other members of the board of directors were named: Marco Antonio Pérez Solís, vice president; Luciana Ramírez Palma, secretary; Ariel Torres, treasurer; María Eugenia Pérez Torres, Yadira Ramírez Silván and Alma Campos Ceballos, legal advisers; and Gerardo Palma Pérez, Silvia Pérez Dzib and Guadalupe Zetina Díaz, members.

At the end of the meeting, held in an events room close to the former rail yards, active and engaged neighbors were honored for their service. Some of the attendees, who have lived here for over 60 years, shared anecdotes, memories and historical information about the former railway station.

Sources: Sipse, Punto Medio

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