Bratislava: Urban Walk in the Zemník Area

This participative action in the city of Bratislava focuses on the redevelopment of the natural and recreational landscape in the Zemník area, a vestige of the Danube alluvial forests. The proximity to the district of Bratislava – Petrzalka and to the nearby suburbs Jarovce and Rusovce provides an enormous recreational potential of the area. The large-scale development of the new dwelling districts Petrzalka – Sunflowers and Bratislava South City, situated nearby the area, has already started (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Zemník area, Bratislava 
Zemník is a 48-hectare lake on the right bank of the Danube, 2.2 km. long and 200 m. wide. According to the master plan, Zemník is a recreational area in a natural environment which should be preserved as natural ecosystem (Figure 2). It is situated in the Jarovce district, on the outskirts of the city of Bratislava. It is connected to the Danube and its intended use was as a rowing lane. Originally, it was an artificial distributary of the Danube, which arose through the mining of gravel used for the construction of the Bratislava district of Petrzalka, and later for the Gabcikovo – Nagymaros dam. 
The area was excavated in the decade of the 1970s between the Danube and the system of river tributaries near the Bratislava’s districts of Jarovce and Rusovce. The connection with Danube was later filled in and the lake gained the character of a closed water area. It was meant to hold two Olympic sports – rowing and the canoe sprint– but it did not have the necessary infrastructure and the facilities required were never built. The ground where Zemník is situated belongs to the state and it is managed by the state organisation Vodohospodarska Vystavba. Aside from occasional training sessions, the lake remained unused for decades, and it gradually transformed into a fishing area. It is also part of the protected bird area Dunajske Luhy.

Figure 2. The south-west bank of Zemník is assigned for recreation in the natural environment and conservation of natural ecosystems (yellow colour)

Slovakia is a country that has some of the world’s top canoeists, but it does not have any training centres. Athletes usually go abroad to train. Zemník is an ideal location for them due to its accessibility. For more than thirty years, canoeists have been planning to develop this area to house sporting facilities. The lake could also be used for triathlon and distance-swimming training and competitions. Zemník could also become a recreational area, a place for leisure activities for the public such as cycling, running, and skating. However, the wetlands and the risk of flooding as well as the lack of the necessary infrastructure and the presence of an access road make it difficult to use as public space. In December 2013, the Slovak association of canoe sprint signed a lease contract for the south-west bank of Zemník with Vodohospodarska Vystavba for 50 years. Once the investment plan is approved, the development will begin within three years after the leasing contract was signed.

Zemník is accessible by a concrete panel road across the Jarovce distributary that floods. It is not possible to travel on the road due to the high water level of the Danube. At present, there are steel cables with the buoys anchored into the banks, which create nine rowing lanes. The first round of the canoe sprint qualifying races took place here, and in during the summer, the Slovak championships take place.

On completion of the foreseen infrastructure, a national centre of canoeing and rowing will be built in Zemník. It will be a modern water sports centre that meets international standards. There will be a tower, a tribune and a boathouse for the canoeists and the rowers. Zemník will have the facilities to hold regular international events such as a world championship.

Water sportsmen have a sensitive approach to the anglers. That is why a 90-metre wide stretch along the north eastern shore of Zemník has remained as a fishing area for anglers, who have their seat there for years. The fishing area is frequently visited by anglers who spend days fishing in the waters. In May 2016, the preliminary year of the Petrzalka fishing marathon took place here.

The area where the national centre of canoe sprint and rowing will be built is located in the protected bird area of Dunajske Luhy. Big flocks of wintering water birds use the water surface of Zemník during the winter. Environmental protectionists proposed to keep a part of the lake of Zemník for the birds and to avoid any activity during the migration period and in the winter time. Rare bird species also belong to this place. Besides swans and wild ducks, it is possible to find grey sea eagles or black storks. According to the general city plan, the areas of the south-western bank of Zemník are considered sports training areas. A highway will be constructed across the locality of Zemník, creating a so-called by-pass highway of Bratislava. Environmental protectionists managed to negotiate that the construction of the highway bridge would pass over the narrowest part of the alluvial forest, and above Zemník. The compensation for the occupation of the land and forest will be the forestation of 20 hectares of agricultural land in the alluvial forest. This way, 20 hectares of the forest will be protected, so that birds can have their nests there. Included in the agreement is also the recovery of the water flow in the Biskupice’s distributary at the opposite bank of the Danube.

The participatory action aims are: 
  • to engage the general public and stakeholders in the process of the planned development in the area of Zemník 
  • to collect information from residents about what the activities to be held in the area
  • to foster the cooperation between citizens and the involved organisations in the decision-making process of leading to specify the requirements of the future national centre of canoeing and rowing.

The following public and private institutions and the civic associations are involved in this action:
Bratislava city (Department of urban planning):

  • Slovak association of canoe sprint
  • Slovak anglers’ association (Bratislava V City organization) 
  • Slovak nature protection (regional centre in Bratislava)
  • Target groups:
    • Citizens of Bratislava – general public, specialists, social groups in the locality, stakeholders, activists
    • Sportsmen, water sportsmen, anglers

Different actions are foreseen as part of this participatory process:

Public informative session: about the beginning of the participatory action: publicity and the information on the web page, and creating of the event and invitations through the social network.

Urban walkguided walk in the area with planned stops for specialists to give explanations to participants.

Questionnaire: carried out on the web and at the urban walk.

The results from questionnaires and the discussions in public meetings will be incorporated into the urban study for the national centre of canoeing and rowing in the locality of Zemník.

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