In 2010 Portoviejo had a population of 206,682 inhabitants, making it the eighth most populous city in the country.
Portoviejo, also known as San Gregorio de Portoviejo, is the capital of the Province of Manabí and is located 30 kilometres (19 miles) from the Pacific coast. It is crossed by the Portoviejo River and located in a plain, at an altitude of 53 meters above sea level. The city is the main political and economical centre of the Portoviejo River valley. Portoviejo was among the places hardest hit by a magnitude-7.8 earthquake that struck northwestern Ecuador in April 2016, resulting in widespread destruction and loss of life in the city.
Located on the right bank of the Portoviejo River, with approximately 10.7 hectares, Las Vegas Park stands as a symbol of the optimistic rebirth of the city following the dearthquake. The park is part of an interconnected system of parks and nature reserves identified in the Rio Portoviejo Master Plan and contributes towards increasing resilience in the city. The basin of the Portoviejo River is known in its history as cultural space and social meeting place which the project aims to recover.
The park is located on the old meanders of the Portoviejo River, discovered by the post-earthquake Urban Master Plan and later in the Portoviejo seismic micro-zoning studies. The soil was characterised by a high liquefaction potential, where avoiding high-rise building developments became a priority. A depression of approximately 6,000 m2, which corresponded to the meanders, was incorporated as a wetland to recreate riparian life.
Las Vegas Park in the city of Portoviejo, Ecuador can be considered as an example of the Build Back Better* concept on an urban scale. After the 2016 earthquake struck, the city allocated a part of the funds received from the central government for reconstruction and economic revitalisation to create this large park in the city centre. The park is part of an interconnected system of green and public spaces which the city aims to build along the Portoviejo River to reduce the flood risk. Hence, the city was able to take the challenge of reconstruction and economic revitalisation as an opportunity to generate new public spaces, revitalise the city centre, and confront the increasing flood risks that were threatening this part of the city.
Four crucial objectives developed in Las Vegas Park are considered:
- Provide natural value and environmental recovery to the Portoviejo River to re-establish a welcoming natural space through reforestation and the protection of existing tree species.
- Increase the green and recreational area of the city. The design of the park should consider the necessary balance between the two aspects in order to provide a contribution of landscape, biodiversity, and oxygenation to the environment.
- Create high-quality, efficient, accessible, and modern public spaces with the selection of historical and contemporary components to address the need for entertainment, meeting and culture spaces for the citizens.
- Take advantage of the natural resource of the river that crosses the city by connecting it with the existing road network, turning it into a tourist axis and a motor for economic reactivation.
The project started in November 2015 and took over a year for its completion on 31 January 2018. During the 4-month design development phase, the consultant team handled the conceptualisation of the park design to serve as a cultural and recreational area. Execution of the physical project lasted 15 months and two weeks (10 October 2016 to 31 January 2018). Additional support was provided by hydraulic engineers in calculating and preventing flooding scenarios, acoustic engineers in designing the Greek-Roman Theatre, and landscape experts in protecting existing vegetation and implementing the wetland system with various species of plants.
Las Vegas Park increased the availability of green areas in the city by recovering the surrounding ecosystem, river, flora, and fauna. For instance, a variety of species of insects, amphibians, reptiles, and birds settled in the wetland as soon as it was rehabilitated and it now also functions as a retention basin, absorbing run off from hard surfaces. Furthermore, the site had been affected by fillers, which choked the riverbed and increased the risk of floods. Following their removal, a green area now allows people to approach the water safely and a part of the filler materials was used to create an artificial hill where an open-air theatre now stands.
As Portoviejo faced a deficit of cultural, tourist, and meeting spaces, the implementation of Las Vegas Park made an excellent contribution to public space development. It provides a high-quality, safe, inclusive, and accessible open space which has increased the overall population’s quality of life. Approximately 30,000 inhabitants have used the park since its opening and this has contributed towards raising awareness about the benefits and proper care of the river and the local environment.
After the earthquake, the city faced a complex process in terms of economic reactivation. However, the incorporation of green areas as well as new and existing businesses, such as Portoparques, has been well received by visitors and residents and has contributed towards the economic recovery of the city.
The park’s design incorporates ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA) solutions such as the recovery and repurposing of the river banks as floodable recreational areas and the regeneration of an abandoned meander as a wetland. The regenerated wetland functions as a stormwater retention tank, while providing a valuable ecosystem that has attracted a wide variety of fauna. The park’s proximity to the city centre, together with events organised in its grounds, have been crucial for the area’s revitalisation and provide a large recreational and leisure space for the whole city.
The main lesson learned from Las Vegas Park was taking the aftermath of a natural disaster as an opportunity for urban integration between the built environment and natural resources. One of its main achievements was not only recovering the river and its surroundings but enhancing and promoting its role in the city. Main recommendations to achieve this include commitment, conscious management, and political will on the part of citizens and professionals.
In terms of transferability, the guiding principles for this project were to protect and control risk for future disasters, create inclusive spaces for the city residents, and maintain green areas. Providing integral and inclusive experiences through recreational activities such as bio-healthy games and reactivating pedestrian mobility represented one of the main achievements of the project for the benefit of citizens.
The project encountered resistance towards the expropriation processes and funding mechanisms. The main opposition was towards the Portoviejo municipal government allocating the USD 10.9 million granted by the national government for the park. However, the projects they requested were already taken care of by other financing processes.
Also, structural components were challenged throughout the winter season in 2017. This period was one of the harshest winters the city has experienced in recent years. However, the precision of the studies and design of the anti-flood platform behaved as expected, proving its high quality and endurance for years to come.
Approximately USD 10.9 million were invested in this project. This was financed through a combination of available municipal and post-earthquake reconstruction committee funds. The investment was used for the following areas:
- Portoviejo River Corridor Master Plan and final designs: USD 184,140
- Expropriations: USD 2,515,122
- Construction: USD 7,721,905 (Solidarity Law Resource)
- Inspection: USD 268,673
- Maintenance: USD 27,710
BARCELONA (ÁREA METROPOLITANA), SPAIN
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