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    A Walk in the Park



    Courtesy Story

    DVIDS Hub       

    By Sgt. Susan German

    ABU NUWAS, Baghdad, Iraq -- At one time the Abu Nuwas area was a special place for Iraqis; a well-frequented site where families could dine and relax. Restoring the park and street to an earlier pre-war state is a significant objective for the 1st Cavalry Division, with help from Iraqi workers.

    The director of the 1st Cavalry Division's Governate Support Team invited a group of local Iraqi media to accompany him through Abu Nuwas Park to document restoration occurring, Aug. 1.

    Col. Kendall Cox, 1st Cav. Div.'s Engineer Brigade commander and director of the Governate Support Team, hosted the Baghdad Press Club, a group of prominent print, television and radio media from Baghdad, on a walking tour of Abu Nuwas Street and Park.

    His intent was to bring the Arab media on board so they could see for themselves the progress being made in the restoration of this once popular locale in Baghdad. He also asked for their support in winning the war for peace and reminded them that the opening of the street and park is a sign of security for the Iraqi people. Cox anticipates the park will open for public use around, Nov. 1.

    Before the tour, Cox introduced two men instrumental to the restoration project's success; Khalil Ibrahim, director general for the Al-Rasafa baladia (District), and 1st Lt. Brian Mason, the onsite project engineer from the 239th Engineer Company, 39th Brigade Combat Team. Ibrahim manages the day-to-day Iraqi proceedings, to include the availability of power and workers to the area and relations with the local residents and business owners, while Mason directs the work done by his engineers.

    Abu Nuwas Park is located on a 2.5-kilometer stretch along the east bank of the Tigris River. Situated between the Jumhouriya Bridge and a park that extends out to the river in Karada near the 14th of July Bridge, the park falls within the 39th BCT's area of responsibility. The brigade's engineers will also help with the renovation of a coffeehouse, once known as the "Al Baghdadi Coffe Shop," which is located in the park behind the hotel complex. Soldiers are working in phases to finish clearing the riverfront park area of trash and weeds, as well as leveling the ground. Soon contracted Iraqi landscapers will come in and plant grass, trees and bushes to help return the area to its earlier splendor.

    Cox anticipates that the cleanup work will be completed by Aug. 30. The cost of the restoration project will fall in the range of $750 thousand to $1 million dollars. "I think it's an awesome project for me and my men to be on because we can immediately see the fruits of our labor," Mason said. "Hey, we're just doing our job but I think it will bring back prosperity, it will strengthen the local economy, and first and foremost, I believe that it's showing the Iraqi people that we truly are here to help."The final phase of the project will be to open up Abu Nuwas Street; concrete barriers will be eventually moved, allowing pedestrian and vehicle traffic along the street. Saddam originally closed the street down for security purposes in 1995.

    As Arab media roamed the famed site, they were encouraged to ask questions of their hosts, but most of all it was hoped that the journalists would interview local fish-restaurant and other nearby business owners, as well as people residing in the area to gauge their reaction to the improvements being made to their neighborhood.

    "In the one month that we've been out here working on Abu Nuwas Street, we've now seen seven or eight of the fish stores open up, as well as some of the businesses across the street," Cox said. "Lots and lots of people come down here and thank us for trying to restore this to what it once was."The statue depicting Arab poet Abu Nuwas, who came from the Al-Rashid District, remains a focal point of the park, just as in the past. The statue will remain the same; its surroundings, to include a new block for it to sit on, will be updated with the assistance of the engineers. Park benches with overhead cover will provide seating and new sidewalks will ease movement through the park. While still a vision for some, a memory for others, the 39th BCT engineers are working hard to restore a bit of history to Baghdad from a happier time.



    Date Taken: 08.10.2004
    Date Posted: 08.10.2004 15:36
    Story ID: 221
    Location: BAGHDAD, IQ 

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