A project that attracted a lot of public attention has been completed, with the renovation of the Sculpture Park and the Old Historic City Cemetery opened to the public after just over a year of contracting work; The entrances to the park are already open to visitors and the fences surrounding the park will be completely removed in the near future, so the citizens of Klaipėda can already visit this newly revived place for walking and appreciate the changes.
The Sculpture Park, which covers an area of almost 10 hectares, dismantled the old infrastructure, cleaned up the pedestrian walkways, installed new lighting, irrigation system, CCTV cameras, built a permanent toilet, carried out landscaping works, and renewed the small architecture (benches, trash cans, bicycle stands, and plaques with the names of the sculptures). The defensive shanty at 40C S. Daukanto St. has been renovated and the symbolic historical gate at K. Donelaičis and Liepų St., the burial place of the Gerlach family of philanthropists has been restored, as well as the surroundings of the monument to the philanthropist L. J. Vyneris. The stone slabs of the Berboms family burial site, which is important for the history of the town, have been restored to their original location.
It commemorates the French prisoners of war who died after the French-Prussian War (1870-1871), the German soldiers who died during the First World War, the Lithuanian soldiers who died between the wars, and the French, Polish, and Belgian prisoners of war who died during the Second World War, who are commemorated with crosses in the Sculpture Park. A memorial to the historical memory has been created in the part of the park closer to Trilapio Street. Tombstones and monuments found during the dismantling of the Soviet-era military campus buildings on the current Klaipėda University campus, as well as finds unearthed during the reconstruction of the park, have been moved to this site. The memorial is intended to be a small stone plaque to commemorate the memory of deceased relatives buried in the city’s old cemetery.
The park is enclosed by a decorative fence on the sides of S. Daukanto Street and Trilapio Street. A new playground for the little ones in Klaipėda. The park has been planted with lawns, flowerbeds, trees and shrubs, and information stands.
The park’s landscaping has also resolved the issue of trees, which has been a major source of discussion for many years. Paradoxically, it was in order to protect the park’s greatest asset, the long-lived trees, that almost 350 trees in poor condition, threatening and self-sustaining were removed, which is considerably less than the number of trees proposed in the previous proposals (900 trees were proposed in the detailed plan approved in 2000, and 504 in the later phase). For the same reason – the desire to preserve the centuries-old oaks – the idea of building an outdoor terrace at the entrance to the park from M. Mažvydas Avenue was abandoned. The decision was made thanks to the signatures collected by active citizens of Klaipėda.
UAB ,,Klaipėdos projektas” started preparing the design documentation for the improvement of the Sculpture Park in 2016. A relatively smooth design process in 2018 culminated in the issuance of the building permit. Once the work was authorised, the debate about how this important site should be managed was reignited. Finally, a compromise was reached, which was adopted after many disagreements, active disputes and discussions among the citizens of Klaipėda, politicians and experts. Some ideas (e.g. basketball courts, parking lots) have not been realized, but according to the Mayor, this does not mean that such options will not be considered – appropriately discussed and weighed proposals can be implemented later. These include a proposal to replant, with private funding, the historic linden avenue from the former nurses’ school to the Defence Chance.
“The Sculpture Park is truly a unique, sacred place – it is both a park and the city’s old cemetery, established two centuries ago. This historic site has its own aura, its own energy, its own audience, and therefore the project proposals that were not controversial were implemented. However, this does not mean that in the future the Sculpture Park will not have new, well-thought-out visitor attraction points and new initiatives”, – said the Mayor of Klaipėda, Arvydas Vaitkus, who actively participated in a special working group for the implementation of the park project and closely followed the progress of works.
The end of the Sculpture Park project marks a significant anniversary for the port city on 15 January. 100 years since the Klaipėda Uprising in 1923, when Klaipėda became part of Lithuania (the city’s historic cemetery is important for this date, as it is also the site of a monument to the participants of the Uprising). Although only part of the work has been completed by this date, the Seimas has decided to declare 2023 the Year of Klaipėda Region.
“The works in the Sculpture Park, which has been unmaintained for almost three decades, are finally finished, and now it is important to maintain the park properly and not to neglect it,” said Vaitkus.
Many well-known citizens of Klaipėda have contributed to this project with their knowledge and advice, and the public has been actively involved. The Mayor thanked all those who had contributed significantly to the improvement of the City Park – the preparers of the technical project, the contractors, the members of the Task Force, the active residents, and the Municipality’s specialists who had supervised the project.
The contract for the landscaping of the Sculpture Park was signed by Klaipėda City Municipality and UAB Plungės lagūna in 2022. March. The final value of the contract is €4 million. This money was allocated from the city budget.