Tula’s Central park is undergoing improvements. The Governor of Tula Region said in an interview recently that the park will be turned into a real park from an overgrown forest it is now. (http://www.gruzdev.ru/presscenter/press/2013/07/10/press_5863.html) Interestingly, on its website the park prides itself on being the forest in the city. It has been founded in 1893 by Dr. Belousov and today covers more than 143 hectares of land, of which 97 hectares are woods, three ponds take 11 hectares with the rest 35 hectares are zoned for recreation. In any case, landscaping, repairs of fountain, yet again the sidewalks as well as other improvements have been going since summer.
Sites in the park that have been repaired or somehow improved are:
The central fountain. Last Spring it hardly ever worked and even non-specialists could tell that its deteriorated features needed renovations. By the end of Summer the fountain got a new pool as well as its internal systems have been improved dramatically so now the fountain has various, better lighting and jets modes.
Here are some pictures of the new fountain from the Park’s site. (http://www.tulagardens.ru/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1&Itemid=56)
Yet again the sidewalks, now in the park, are undergoing construction. New sidewalks are being built in places where there used to be just walking paths.
Also, it seems that bicycle lanes will also be created.
A new small stadium has been built. It looks good and I’m sure it is enjoyed by many people. The park’s website states that in order to gain access to this ground you have to first submit a request but people playing there told me that it was open for the general public’s use without any such formalities.
Here is the old place for playing volleyball. You can see the difference.
A newly developed site is called “Ground for Workout”.
It is a gift of Tula’s Governor Vladimir Gruzdev. The description on the photo above gives a rather free translation of the word “workout” (“workout is exercising (is a workout) outdoors with the use of one’s own body weight”) but the place itself is an excellent present for those who like open-air exercise.
Just recently I went to the park for a walk and was really surprised to see a brand new dog run complete with bars for dogs to exercise and even benches for people to sit on. For those people unfamiliar with dog situation in Russia in general and in Tula in particular I have to say that this is the only dog run I have ever seen in Tula. Yes, I remember seeing them in some of the old Soviet movies. Yes, I saw some exercising pens for service (mostly police) dogs in Tula. But a civilized, fenced dog run in the park I have not seen before.
Here is the sign with the rules.
In order to appreciate this news you have to know that in Tula there are hundreds of stray dogs – and cats – that populate the streets and remain a big problem for the administration as well as animal protection groups alike. According to a recent estimate by Tula State Pedagogical University’s Biotechnology department that I’ve read in Sloboda, a Tula’s newspaper, there are more than 30 thousand stray animals in Tula. You read about biting and mauling often enough you start picking your child up automatically when you see strays approaching you in the street or pull him closer when you see a big dog walking with its owner.
In Russia there also exists a general disrespect of dog owners to the rest of the public’s sanitary and – often – safety concerns. Living in Tula I can easily enumerate those few times when I saw somebody to clean after their dog. Dog waste is a big concern in small parks and even on children’s playgrounds. A fact that surprised me recently – in the US, according to a survey by the Center for Watershed Protection done in 1999 41% of dog owners rarely or never pick up after their dog either! http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/science/2002-06-07-dog-usat.htm Leaving in New York I never thought that the problem was actually that bad!
I know that violence, dog cruelty or dog waste problems exist everywhere in the world. But here the culture of curbing your dog, the culture of animal shelters and animal adoption are still rather nascent. This is the reason that a dog run in the park, by the very concept of it, felt so strange to me.
Dog owners that I talk to often complain that it is impossible to walk your dog anywhere. So they need to go somewhere and cannot do anything if the only green area near their house is a playground. In the park, actually just across the new dog run, there hangs a “No Dog Walking” sign.
Exercising your dog is not the same as cleaning after it. But I like the idea of having a dog run in the park, although it still does not prevent any of us from encountering dog waste. However it may be just the beginning. So hopefully one day there will be more dog shelters in Tula, there will be easily accessible plastic bags in parks like those you can get in Carl Schurz park in New York City, and there will be more mutual respect for all of us, people and dogs.