Sunday, August 1, 2010

Yangjae Citizen’s Forest and Yangjaecheon

Refreshing forest ideal for a rest

Before Seoul Forest, Yangjae Citizen’s Forest was the largest man-made forest in Seoul. It is located in the southern part of Seocho-gu. Seocho-gu has served as the starting point for those who left Seoul for every corner of the country and the gate to Seoul for those who traveled to Seoul. The area around Yangjae-dong, where the Citizen’s Forest is located, used to be called as “Maljukgeori (馬粥巨理)” and this name signifies the history of the area. The reason this area was dubbed as Maljukgeori (horse-feed street) was that people on their business trips have stopped there to feed their horses and take a rest at a tavern since early in the Joseon Dynasty. Some say that the area was so-named because horses sent from Jeju-do were fed and groomed there before they arrived in Seoul.

The name of the forest in Yangjae-dong, the entrance to Seoul from the south, is Citizen’s Forest. It opened in 1986 to create a forest in downtown Seoul. Due to its 24-year history, the forest is well stocked with 10,000 trees of 45 species such as pine, zelkova, metasequoia, maple and ash trees giving off fresh oxygen to the air and providing cool shade. Meanwhile, 52,000 shrubs and small trees of 15 species, such as rhododendron, azalea, winged euonymus, beauty berry and rose vines fill the forest with different colors and scents in every season. The forest provides a habitat for small wild animals, such as Korean squirrels, squirrels, great tits and brown-eared bulbus. With its trees, shrubs and animals, Citizen’s Forest constitutes a well-harmonized ecosystem.

Walking along the trail in the forest is the most special experience you can have in Citizen’s Forest. Since most of the park (an area of 258,992㎡) is forest, it provides fresh air and a relaxing atmosphere to Seoulites who are exhausted from the hazy air and their busy life. That’s why the forest attracts an average of 4,000 visitors a day and 1.6 million visitors annually. Of course, these figures are not the absolute standard with which to evaluate the value of the forest, but, an increasing number of visitors to the forest gives us a hint about the value of Yangjae Citizen’s Forest.

In the forest, there is a barefoot park where you can take off your shoes and walk barefoot on the wooden trail, pebbles and red clay trail. Walking barefoot in the deep forest makes your body and mind refreshed. The water fountain and small man-made stream in the middle of the forest are loved by children. From the beginning of spring with its warm sunshine through the hot summer, you can see children playing with water on fine days.

Metasequoia trees cast shadows in the deep forest and people unfold picnic mats on the lawn under the trees. Fresh air flows through the trees and people take deep breaths of fresh air sitting or lying down on the mats. An old gentlemen reading a book at a bench under a tall tree or a couple in love whispering under a tree are familiar scenes in the forest. The pure smiles of children running around in the forest may be due to the enchanting power of the forest.

Culture and Arts Park

The east end of Citizen’s Forest meets Gyeongbu Expressway. Across the expressway, there is another forest, which is Culture and Arts Park. It seems as if the expressway divides the forest into two parts. However, the expressway was built earlier than the forest. The Culture and Arts Park was built in Zone 3 of Citizen’s Forest in 1994. Near the forest, the Children’s Transportation Safety Education Park and Seoul Education Culture Center are located.

Culture and Arts Park is like a huge outdoor gallery where forests and sculptures are harmonized. Sculptures of various materials exhibited along the walking trail are well matched with the calm and peaceful atmosphere of the forest. There is an outdoor stage, too. An auditorium constructed of steel and wood matches the steel roof of the stage, creating a modern look. The stage is suitable for small-scale performances.

Right next to the center plaza, there is a special exhibition area where sculptures are located. The sculptures are the works of representative modern sculptors. These sculptures deliver various aspects of life to visitors of the park. It is quite good to walk quietly in thought while viewing the artwork.

There are various species of trees growing in the Culture and Arts Park. The most recognizable tree is the metasequoia tree. The Metasequoia tree-lined road, one of the most famous things in the park, is an exotic sight. You may feel a cozy and romantic atmosphere while you walk through the metasequoia trees.

Yangjaecheon (stream)

Yangjaecheon, rising in Gwanaksan and Cheonggyesan and flowing through Gwacheon-si to Gangnam area of Seoul, is one of the branch streams of the Hangang. Until the mid-’90s, Yangjaecheon was seriously polluted by household waste water. Then, no fish or birds could live in Yangjaecheon. Thanks to a continuous environmental recovery project for 15 years, the stream was restored to become the most successful eco-river where more than 20 species of fish live and birds such as red-crowned cranes and mallard ducks often visit.

Seocho-gu also provides the “Yangjaecheon Eco-exploration Program” every Wednesday during April-June and September-October. The exploration course is Seocho Culture and Arts Park→Environmental Education Center→Yangjaecheon Water Treatment Facility→Yangjaecheon. For two hours, participants observe the ecosystem of streams and the forest with a professional instructor. The program starts with a lecture about the forest ecosystem at the Culture and Arts Park.

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