Parks and public gardens are traditionally called the “lungs of the city”. A green belt of 13 forest parks encircling Ekaterinburg creates a necessary biological filter that allows citizens to feel comfortable living in the “industrial heart” of the country. No other major city in Russia has so many forest parks around.
The work to preserve the surrounding forests was started by one of city founders, Vasily Tatishchev. In 1722 he wrote the first instruction “On forest preservation”, further elaborated in the “Plant Regulations” and stating: “To forbid forest cutting under brutal penalty <…> 15 versts from the plants the standing forest is not to be cut for firewood and house construction, but to use brushwood and fallen trees, or go further from the plants”. In 1728 an office of Forestry Warden was established; he was in charge of making sure the rules were strictly followed.
Later on, the forests around the city were not only preserved, but also multiplied. Nowadays they are considered a protected natural area. Special services equip them for campers’ needs: they install benches and pavilions, keep the territory clean, and decorate it with wooden sculptures (as in Russian Forestry Park, for example).
A popular place for winter recreation is Uktus forest park. It is name after the Uktus mountain, the slopes of which are equipped for downhill skiing and snowboarding. In addition, there are cross-country skiing paths and smaller hills around the mountain. The park infrastructure includes a café and a hotel for guests of the city. In summer Uktus forest park is a quiet and less popular area.
|"Stones Tents" Shartash forest park|
One of the most popular forest parks in Ekaterinburg is Shartash forest park. A unique natural monument – Shartash Stone Tents – is located here. Stone Tents are small rock formations with granite plates stacked like mattresses. The highest rock is 12 m, and with the hill where it is located total height reaches 25 m. At the same time the rocks are not visible from afar, because they are situated amid pine forest.
Thanks to archeological finds, it is established that ancient people sites were situated here and the rocks themselves were used to make sacrifices. In the early 20th century the workers gathered here for illegal May-day and Bolshevik meetings. One of the local Bolshevik leaders Yakov Sverdlov once was speaking in public here. For 67 years the city was named after him, and the region is still called Sverdlovskaya Oblast.
Today, the Stone Tents area is a popular recreational place among citizens. Here you can walk along shady paths, ride a bike, or swim in Lake Shartash situated not far from the park.
|Park of Rastorguev-Kharitonov's Mansion|
In the center of Ekaterinburg there is a number of historic green areas formed back in the 19th century. The park of Rastorguyev-Kharitonov’s mansion on Voznesenskaya Gorka (Ascension Hill) is one of them. It was laid out in 1826 as a garden adjoining the mansion. The mansion itself was built in classical style, therefore the garden has characteristics of a classical English park. It combines regular layout in the upper part of the garden with picturesque tortuous paths, artificial mounds and groups of trees in the lower part. It is known that all the trees planted in the park were already grown-up, they were especially dug up in forests around the city.
The gem of the park is the little pond with an artificial island. It can be reached via a little bridge that sets against a rotunda pavilion. But this is the distinguishing feature of the contemporary park: under one of the first owners Peter Kharitonov there was another miracle here. There was a grotto in the southern part of the park on a hill. It was built from bricks and covered with earth for natural look. The grotto was used as a wine cellar; they also made ice-cream there. A summer pavilion was built above the grotto. Under one of the tables there was a device, used to lift ice-cream to the guests directly from the grotto. In the Soviet era first a chess club was located in the grotto, then a storehouse, until the grotto was finally demolishing after a fire in 1990.
The park of Rastorguyev-Kharitonov’s mansion has always been open for the public. Nowadays it is a favorite place for walking and for doing sports, and there are special playgrounds for children.
A similar multifunctional area combining possibilities for rest and sports is the park named after Pavlik Morozov laid out in the Soviet time. After Perestroika it felled into decay because of insufficient funding, but it has been reconstructed and renewed recently. Besides the general work of planting the greenery on the territory and equipping it with benches, urns and lanterns, several children’ s playgrounds, a workout ground and even an agility ground for dogs were constructed here. For the convenience of the visitors all the paths are covered with special rubberized canvas.
|Arboretum, and Open air museum, 8 Marta St.|
The special place and an original open air museum in the open air that is Ekaterinburg Arboretum. It has two branches: one at the intersection of Pervomayskaya and Mira streets and the other at the intersection of 8 Marta and Kuybysheva streets.
The Arboretum on Pervomayskaya Street was founded on the basis of a Research Greenery Station. At first there was just pine forest, and after the research station was opened in 1932, various plants brought from other regions began to appear here. The main plantation was made in 1935-1936. The plants were brought from all over the country and the world: from Siberia and Far East, from Asian countries, North America and Europe. In 1960s the first collection of Ural roses appeared in the park, and by 1990 about 100 species were cultivated in the rosarium. The park was open for visitors in 1962, by that time there were more than 300 species and varieties of plants. However, its rich flora is not the only particularity of the park, there are also two picturesque ponds with ducks.
The Arboretum on 8 Marta Street, including a nursery garden of 1 hectare area, was founded in 1948. It replaced a Pioneers’ garden that had been previously opened here to conduct Biology lessons. After reconstruction, exhibitions of flowers and flower-beds started opening in the park. Later, the exhibit was enriched with a collection of citruses brought from Sochi. By 1955 the nursery garden had 80 varieties of trees and brushes seedlings. In the end of 1990s the park had a total area of 7.5 hectares, including a winter garden of 300 sq. m.
Besides of plants, the park features a fountain and Alexandro-Nevskaya chapel that was built in the memory of Emperor Alexander II and his peasant reform abolishing serfdom. Currently a possible expansion of the park to the east, on the other bank of the Iset River, is being considered.
Today the eastern side of the Arboretum faces the right bank of the Iset. On the other bank there is a pedestrian area now. It starts from Kuybysheva Street and runs up to “Dynamo” stadium. At this part of the riverfront you can see one of most curious monuments in Ekaterinburg – a huge concrete keyboard. Further, closer to the city center, the riverfront runs into Historical public garden with a Stone garden displaying mineralogical wealth of the Urals. In the future city authorities plan to prolong the pedestrian area from Verh-Isetsky pond to Khimmash district, i.e. throughout entire Ekaterinburg. The nearest plans are to make a pedestrian crossing under the bridge on Malysheva Street.
The most attended and the largest park of the city is Mayakovsky Central Park of Entertainment and Culture. It occupies the area of 100 hectares, and since 1980s has been a traditional location for city holidays and festivities.
Historically the park is laid just on the place where traditional festivities were held. In the 19th century merchants summer houses and Meshchanskaya grove were located here, in the bend of the Iset. In summer 1934 Sverdlovsk Park of Entertainment and Culture was opened at this territory. The same year, to celebrate the poet’s 40th anniversary, the park was named after Vladimir Mayakovsky. At that time the park was in the outskirts, in pine forest, and its total area was 133 hectares. At first, Mayakovsky park was simply a forest area. It was used for walk and camping, as well as skiing in winter. The only attractions were a little pond, a dance pavilion with a summer stage and three amusement rides. In 1936, a cinema and a summer circus were opened in the park.
After the beginning of the Great Patriotic War the park was closed. In 1943 its territory became a polygon for vehicular reconnaissance battalion of the Ural volunteer tank corps. In memory of this battalion, a stone stele stood in the far part of the park for many years. In 1995, to commemorate the heroes of the battalion a monument of motorcycle wheel was installed on the Memorial square of the park. Historic and Cultural Center under the Government of the Russian Federation included it in the digest “Monuments of military valor and fame”.
After 1950, significant changes took place in the Central Park of Entertainment and Culture: the central alley was moved to the left, new brick office buildings and the central entrance arch were built. Later a monument to Mayakovsky was installed in the park, and the cinema was renewed. In 1960, children’s railroad circle was launched at the park area. Three years later a planetarium was open near the central entrance (it no longer functions). Mayakovsky Central Park of Entertainment and Culture became one of the leading parks in Russia. In socialist competitions among parks it bolded the first rank many times. And by 1970 it received a permanent Red Banner.
|Mayakovsky Central Park of Entertainment and Culture, cenntral alleyway|
After Perestroika all the old attractions of the park were closing one by one, but many news ones appeared. In 1991 an attraction “In the world of fairy tales” was opened. In summer 2006 the first international festival of landscape sculpture took place in the open air in the Central Park of Entertainment and Culture. The works of 13 winners later decorated the central alley of the park. The same year the first color music fountain “Sozvezdiye”, unique to the Urals, was opened here. The diameter of the fountain pan is 15 m, its content is 153 m3. Using illumination the effect of 9 colors is reached, and the height and the shape of jets create13 images interchanging depending on music tempo, at a speed from 2 seconds to 5 minutes. One year later, 3 additional smaller color music fountains appeared on the central alley of the park.
In 2008 the second international festival of landscape sculpture took place. It was marked by the opening of Literary alley decorated with sculptures of famous writers of the 18-19th centuries. and Retro alley.
As of today, the total area of Mayakovsky Central Park of Entertainment and Culture is 94 hectares, 70 hectares of those is forest. There are about 40 amusement rides and attractions, a soft playroom, and an arcade. Those fond of nature can visit a contact zoo. Its inhabitants include sheep, pigs, goats, a peacock, a raccoon, a polecat, different colorful rabbits, hen, ducks, geese and other animals. The gem of the zoo are roe deer and reindeer. You can touch and feed those friendly animals. In winter, there is a skating rink and ice-hills on the park territory, and cross-country skiing paths in the forest area.
Concert tours of pop-stars and traditional city holidays are also held in the park. In 2014, in anticipation of the FIFA World Cup matches that Ekaterinburg will be hosting in 2018, a special football fan-zone was built here. It has a territory of 1.5 hectares, and after the 2014 International FIFA Fan Fest was reequipped as a multifunctional sports ground.
Every year Mayakovsky Central Park of entertainment and Culture is visited by more than 2.5 million people, both citizens and guests of the capital of the Urals.