Letná to get an irrigation pond

The park has been suffering from too much dry weather

The warmer and drier weather in recent years has been affecting the greenery in Prague's Letná park, which without help could become an arid wasteland.

The city has been hoping to irrigate the park with water from Prague Castle, but the Prague Castle Administration does not want to share its resources with the city. A pipe was even built in the bridge crossing Chotkova Street linking the Castle gardens at Belvedere to Letná, but it is not being used.

As an alternative, the city is planning to create an artificial pond on the edge of Letná, using water from the Vltava river.

“It's really dry, and if something isn't done then trees could be dying within a decade,” City Councilor Jana Plamínková (Three-party Coalition / STAN) said, according to daily Mladá fronta Dnes (MfD).

Castle Administration spokesman David Šebek told MfD that there are concerns about the infrastructure in the historical parts of the waterworks, and that prevents sharing any additional water.

Since the Castle has not changed its position in years and seems unlikely to do so in the future, the city is being forced to look at more expensive alternatives.

An artificial pond could be built within three years and be used to irrigate the trees and lawns in the park. The planned pond would be created near Hanavský pavilon at the southeast corner of the park.

Prague City Hall spokesman Vít Hofman told MfD that according to a study the construction of the pumps and pipelines would cost Kč 6.3 million and the annual operating costs would be Kč 640,000. The main expense would be electricity to pump the water uphill.

He added that land use documentation was being prepared by the city, and that if the Castle changes it mind then both sources could be used.

Swimming will be a gray area. The city will not give out fines to people entering the water, but the water is not treated to make it clean. The same situation exists in Stromovka, which has artificial ponds.

The ponds in Stromovka are filled by an underground canal built in the time of Emperor Rudolf II at the end of the 16th century. His imperial seal with the letter R and a crown can still be seen on the stone entry to the tunnel.

There is disagreement on what to do in Letná after more water becomes available. Some people want to manicure the now overgrown areas, especially under the plinth for the long-gone statue of Stalin, and at the same time remove the graffiti that is now covered by dense growth. Others want to leave the park in a more natural state.

The planned pond is not the only change for Letná. A track for inline skaters should be finished within three months. The track is part of a Kč 15 million renovation of the park's orchards.

Letná began as an orchard in the 19th century. It saw extensive renovations in the 1940s when Letenský zámeček was built. Thousands of new trees were planted in the 1960s.

From 1955 to 1962 there was a statue of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin at the site that now has a metronome.

The park saw anti-communist protests in 1989, with some 750,000 people gathering there Nov. 25 and 26.

Michael Jackson began the HIStory World Tour at the park on Sept. 7, 1996. Some 127,000 people attended the concert. Jackson erected a statue of himself on the spot where Stalin used to stand.

Aside from Hanavský pavilon, a neo-Baroque building created for the 1891 Jubilee Exhibition, other notable features in the park are a carousel from the 1890s and Brussels Pavilion from the 1958 World Expo.

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