Uncertain future for Krakow’s little oasis Zakrzowek

Will Krakow finally get a new green recreation area it so desperately needs? Zakrzowek, located in southwest Krakow near Ruczaj, is anticipating some big changes. Early last year part of the old limestone quarry turned reservoir had changed hands from the Batka family to a Portuguese development company Gerium Development Polska. Some 30 hectares, including part of the lake, are the property of the investor, whilst the remaining 200 hectares belong to the Municipal Council.
The limestone quarry was in operation until 1991. Once excavations reached 180 meters deep, an underground water reservoir was hit, flooding the quarry. It has since become one of the most popular diving areas in Poland with some of the best visibility and cleanest waters. The area around the Zakrzowek, city property known as Skalki Twardowskiego (Twardowski?s Cliffs), provides locals with possibilities such as rock climbing, bike riding and hiking. Such activities however are left to the whim of the public.
There is no official land management plan so there are no designated or supervised areas within the vicinity for such sports. Because the reservoir is private property it is fenced off from the general public. This, however, has not stopped swimming enthusiasts from regularly demolishing the fence and using the lake as a local swimming hole. A management plan taking into account the public?s needs would clearly make the area more accessible and safe to use.
Since Gerium?s winning bid, much anticipation and uncertainty has set in as to the proposed plans for the area. The land management plan filed by the Portuguese development company was rejected by the Municipal Council in August last year. A decision from the Regional Administration Court in Krakow is anticipated soon.
According to Jan Machowski from the Municpal Council, the matter should be resolved by the end of 2007. Should the court approve the management plan, Gerium Development will then be able to proceed with its investment.
Gerium?s Director for Investment and Development Barbara Zbyszewska is more optimistic. She told The Krakow Post that plans will be known by mid August ?once all negotiations and talks are completed.? She was adamant that more would be known in six weeks time ?when plans for the Zakrzowek area will become known to the public.?
Murmurs as to the plan include an open-air theater, beaches allowing safe and easy access to the lake?s currently steep shore line, green recreational and picnic spaces as well as allocated bike tracks. Rumors of luxurious villas are also on the cards. Gazeta Wyborcza last week disclosed Gerium?s architectural plans to erect prestige villas against the green backdrop of the lake?s setting. Nothing official has yet been announced.
For this reason the locals who use this area fear their outdoor activities will soon be made inaccessible. Fee implementation is also a worry. Concerned parties about the Zakrzowek include Krakow?s diving clubs. The president of the Litoral Diving Team, Michal Chrusciel fears that once the Portuguese investor takes over the area, the diving clubs will see their lake access fees rise for diving enthusiasts.
Ecological issues are also a matter of concern. Chrusciel claims ?the reservoir is the best and closest in the area, providing excellent diving opportunities. Once development starts with designated swimming areas and pools established, more people will swarm to the already popular site. Good management will have to be a priority.?  Locals like Justyna Sekula, who uses the area regularly, hopes the Portuguese company will not follow the trends of erecting tacky tourist sausage shacks in Zakrzowek?s vicinity but rather develop an ?interesting space for the body and soul? accessible to the general public.

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