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El poder de la ciutadania en la transformació responsable del paisatge i del territori

Organizes and produces:
Universitat de València. Vicerectorat de Cultura i Igualtat
Ajuntament de València. Regidoria de Conservació d'àrees naturals i Devesa - Albufera
Centre Cultural La Nau de la Universitat de València
Fundació General de la Universitat de València
Servici Devesa - Albufera. Ajuntament de València
Col·legi Territorial d'Arquitectes de València (CTAV)
Caixa Popular
Arxiu Fílmic de la Filmoteca. Institut Valencià de Cultura. Generalitat Valenciana
Carles Dolç Soriano, arquitecte
Tito Llopis, Vetges Tu i Mediterrània SLP - VTiM arqtes
Felipe Martínez Llorens, arquitecte
Luis Alberto Perdigón Fernández, arquitecte
Maria Josep Picó Garcés, periodista
© Eduardo Alapont
La Devesa del Saler is a charming landscape for the citizenship, a leisure area of the L’Horta metropolis, an ensemble of ecosystems of enormous biodiversity and a key element of the natural park of La Albufera. In 1962, the Valencia City Council promoted a plan to urbanise it and turn it into another Mediterranean marine, intended to be a temporary accommodation of the “mass tourism” in which Manuel Fraga Iribarne, the then minister of Information and Tourism, proposed to colonise the most singular maritim areas. 
The urbanisation project, signed by the architect from Madrid Julio Cano Lasso and boosted by a group of investors with strong real-estate and financial interests which included the Banco Urquijo, was welcomed at first glance with admiration by the Valencian society. The Plan was approved on 1965 by the consistory chaired by the mayor Adolfo Rincón de Arellano, it began shortly after and at short notice we will see its damaging effects on the wood and on the El Saler beach.

Those final years of the sixties, some minority voices pointed out the initial critics to the urbanising process. They were biologists and environmentalists that checked the damages and the absence of previously established criteria with regard to the nature in the work in progress at the Saler. Voices such as the professors Docavo, Mansanet or Gil Corell, which Félix Rodríguez de la Fuente joint with the programme “Vida Salvaje” in Televisión Española in 1970, produced a first public discussion and generated serious doubts about the goodness of the urbanisation of la Devesa in the Valencian society.
When in 1973 the deputy director of Las Provincias, María Consuelo Reyna, published amid three articles very critical about the project and the works, the newspaper changed its position and became the loudspeaker of a long debate. At the beginning of 1974 the Valencia City Council alerted by the persistent critics and already chaired by Miguel Ramón Izquierdo, a new mayor designated by the central government, proposed a remodelling of the urbanising plan that, presented in public, did not change the criteria of the original plan. But in those moments, in the civil society, the citizen movement that opposed to the urbanisation of la Devesa was configured.
El Saler for the people was the emblem of the citizen campaign that in the summer of 1974 raised emphatically that the urbanisation was a disaster and that la Devesa should be recovered. Along with the environmentalist critique, they argued that a community assed had been expropriated breaking the law of 1911 of the transfer to Valencia of the property of La Albufera, that the city was losing a green space and that as an economic operation the urbanisation was a calamity for the municipal finances. The citizen movement was supported by the neighbourhood associations born in the neighbourhoods and towns by the end of the Francois, and by the initiative of different professionals, sociologists (Josep Vicent Marqués), architects (Just Ramírez) lecturers (Trini Simó), journalist... 15,750 signatures were collected opposing to the urbanisation, an incredible number under the dictatorship and the allegations against the remodelling proposed by the City council multiplied. It occupies a preeminent place the exposure, informative and propositional organised in June 1974 at the Architect School with the title “El Saler: Dades per a una decisió col·lectiva”, that had an higher impact on citizenship than the official of the remodelling of the plan. In September there was a call for a concentration at El Saler repressed by the dictatorship...
© Pere Prada
The work of the citizen movement achieved the non-urbanisation. The buildings placed inside the woods of El Saler, the motorway that strangles it or the gold course are some of the memories or scars of an urbanisation that would have finished with La Devesa.
The first Valencian democratic corporation, chaired by Ricard Pérez Casado, paralysed definitely the implementation of the urbanising plan, started in 1980 the studies for the recovery of El Saler and approved the Special plan to protect La Devesa in 1982. After that, in 1986, the Valencian Government declared the Natural Park of La Albufera where La Devesa del Saler is included, started the regeneration of the dune systems (1990-2000) destroyed by the urbanisation and the planning of the tourism uses of the area.

Willing to continue along the lines of that citizen movement that avoided the defeat of El Saler, the exposure that we present also treats the present of La Devesa. The book that accompanies it is not a catalogue for use, but a sum of items of different authors that update a large part of the possible records -scientific, cultural and socials- in a metropolitan landscape as singular and unique.

© Eduardo Alapont
In the Natural Park de La Albufera there are still a lot of outstanding questions. As preparation of our work we were coorganisers of the symposium devoted to the Park celebrated at the Jardí Botànic de la Universitat de València last November in which problems were diagnosed and proposals made. We think about questions (or claims) such as restore modified beaches by the expansion of the port of Valencia, the recovery of the quality that the water of the lake had on 1960, the anomaly of a motorway geared towards the heart of a natural park, the golf course in contradiction to the rich ecosystem of El Saler, the future of the existing buildings at La Devesa, to recover the connection of El Saler with its port, etc.

There are many things to be done and we should discussed them to plan properly its future at short and long term. The citizen participation will be essential.

© Pere Prada