This is one of the favorite places for walks of Plovdiv residents and guests of the city. Apart from rest and relaxation, the park is also used for sports activities. The opportunities for sports and entertainment are numerous - from cycling and rowing lessons, to tennis and amateur football in the many areas adapted for this.
Its differentiation as a locality, however, can be traced back to 1936, when a law was passed by the National Assembly. It envisioned the eastern part of the Royal Island to become a place of recreation for the people of Plovdiv. There was also the only remaining forest along the Maritsa River. The first drafts for its settlement began to be prepared. In 1937, the Hunting Park was inaugurated nearby, and Mayor Bozhidar Zdravkov predicted that this would become the city's biggest attraction. He even ordered the forest to be guarded by armed guards and a herd of deer to be allowed there. As the guards had a hard time dealing with the poachers, the mayor used funds to erect a fence. In two or three years the deer increased, several hundred pheasants settled in the forest, and it seemed that his prophecy would come true. Unfortunately, after his removal from the post of mayor, the forest was abandoned, the fence looted and the pheasants killed. They moved the deer on Bunardzhika.
Seven years later, the technical service at the municipality set about preparing a new project with the idea of restarting the concept of a well-arranged national park. In 1947, the newspapers published the decision of the Plovdiv City Municipal Council - the forest in the Island of Freedom to become a natural area. Ten years later, talk of the Otdih I Kultura (Recreation and Culture) National Park had started. The actual construction started in the spring of 1960. The approaches to the park were then formed. A large alley with a water canal was to lead to it, which in summer would give the people of Plovdiv coolness, and in winter it would turn into an ice rink. The newspapers trumpeted that Plovdiv would have the most beautiful park in the country. The exotic forest and the area of the park, which covered 2,800 decares, were pointed out as a real phenomenon in the world practice.
The project from 1964 also included the terrain of the former state nursery (now there is the Rosary) in the park. A grandiose plan for a park of nations was drawn up, which provided for the planting of exotic plants from different continents. The first parts were formed. It turned out that the newcomers thrived in Bulgarian conditions. Later, during the construction of the rosary, the exotic plants were uprooted.
The projects from the 70s also envisaged the construction of a summer theater, a Thracian settlement, an old Bulgarian fortress, a Ferris wheel, a dolphinarium, a summer reading room, a summer disco. Two new plans followed, new teams of designers were formed, and other developments appeared. After them, the corrections began. The whole process consumed too much money.
The last project dates back to 1984. It was prepared by Sofproekt after extensive research. It was then reworked several times, received the approval of all possible departments. Shortly after its final completion, however, it became unnecessary, as a search was ordered for a rowing canal and efforts were diverted elsewhere.
Today on the territory of the park are the Rowing Canal, the Brotherhood Mound, the zoo that failed to open its doors and, unfortunately, new residential buildings are constantly emerging, rapidly consuming green areas and vegetation. None of the entertainment facilities planned in the numerous projects is happening, and what will the fate of Otdih I Kultura be in the future – we’ll wait and see!