For decades ranked as among the largest urban areas in the world, Mexico City is a vibrant metropolis and the oldest capital city in the Americas. Its land was originally settled over 700 years ago by indigenous peoples, who built their city of 300,000 on an island in the middle of a large series of lakes within a drainless valley basin. As the city grew through the colonial era and into modern times to reach 21 million inhabitants, it was built directly on top of those lakes – a geographic legacy that creates unique and substantial risks and challenges to managing the city’s massive infrastructure. Drainage capacity has not expanded in tandem with the city’s explosive growth, and the substantial sinking that the city has undergone in the last century due to water being pumped out of the aquifer for human use puts pipes at risks of one day flowing backwards. Combined with a natural topography that hinders the absorption of water, the city faces constantly faces heavy flooding as a result of heavy rainfall, which climate change is making more frequent. Even minor flooding disrupts transportation systems and cause sewers to overflow, significantly impacting the city.
To address this its flood risk, one of the initiatives in Mexico City’s Resilience Strategy aims to develop its flood-prevention capacity using blue-green infrastructure capable of capturing rainwater and either retaining it for later use or ensuring it is absorbed slowly into the earth, rather than flooding. To further improve the resilience dividends of its flood management projects, and pursue other city goals around social cohesion and public spaces, the Strategy specifics that “such projects will also seek to build inclusive public spaces and promote education and awareness about water conservation in cities.”
Motivated to realize these dividends, the city recently built a skatepark located in the Los Coyotes Zoo in the borough of Coyoacán, one of Mexico City’s oldest neighborhoods, with architecture dating from the colonial area and strong ties to its pre-Columbian history and the centuries it spent as a village unincorporated into the city proper. The park is the fourth opened by the city to promote recreation, and the first explicitly designed to also serve as a rainwater catchment structure. The skatepark has 8 rainwater storage deposits located at different points of the park, giving it the capacity to temporarily capture 146 square meters of rainwater that will then infiltrate into the soil below the skatepark. The park’s rainwater catchment system was constructed via an “aquatic cells” method, in which liquid is captured and then distributed slowly into the natural soil, allowing the rain to be a resource that feeds aquifers, rather than a challenge that floods streets.
The Los Coyotes skatepark is the first in Mexico with this kind of integrated recreation designed with blue-green infrastructure. Cities such as Roskilde, in Denmark, have also built multifunctional skateparks with rainwater drainage, although the Roskilde drainage system merely captures the water in three basins, and does not transfer it into the soil.
The mayor of Mexico City inaugurated the park in May of 2017, accompanied by the Environmental Secretary, the borough head of Coyoacán, and skateboarding youth. The space is meant to be enjoyed primarily by children and young people, and is one project within a wider recovery of public spaces that the city is undertaking to build social cohesion. To date, Mexico City has recovered 50 parks and installed 76 open-air gymnasiums as part of these efforts.