Nature around the corner: What is special about Severnoye Butovo Park

August 9
Parks and pedestrian areas

In early summer, Moscow established 18 specially protected natural areas (SPNA). These areas’ new legal status means that the Moscow environmental authorities will carefully monitor the conservation of the local species diversity, as well as maintain and recreate the local ecosystems.

One of such areas is the Severnoye Butovo environmental park. Located on the border of the North and South Butovo districts, this place has long been loved by the locals, who enjoyed taking walks there. The environmental park is relatively small, only 137.79 hectares, but is nice enough to be a favourite recreation spot for residents of the adjacent neighbourhoods. The park can be reached from the metro stations Bulvar Dmitrya Donskogo, Ulitsa Starokachalovskaya and Ulitsa Skobelevskaya.

New park, new rules

The Severnoye Butovo Environmental Park is managed by the Bitsevsky Les Natural Areas Directorate of Mospriroda. It previously held the status of a natural site.

“Establishing protected areas requires certain natural and scientific research – for example, to confirm that the area is home to rare and endangered animals and plants in the Red Data Book, as well as valuable natural landmarks,” says Andrei Kharchenko, deputy director of the Bitsevsky Les Nature and History Park.

Andrei Kharchenko, deputy director of the Bitsevsky Les Nature and History Park

In particular, hares, weasels, white-backed woodpeckers and black woodpeckers can be found in Severnoye Butovo Park. The grass frog and the common newt also live here. The local plants include the lily of the valley, purple milk-vetch and wild pansy. All these species are listed in the Red Data Book of Moscow.

As a protected area, the park will also change its landscaping policy. For example, in most of the area, natural grass will only be mowed once a year, after the seeds have ripened. This will help preserve the wild grasses. Regular mowing will be carried out only on lawns near the central entrance from the Bulvar Dmitrya Donskogo station, where no valuable or Red Data Book plants have been found, since local residents use the lawns for sunbathing.

Contrary to the popular misconception, barbecuing is allowed in protected areas. The fact is that grilling meat and vegetables using portable grills outside specially designated areas has long been prohibited in Moscow. Severnoye Butovo has several gazebos with stationary barbecues in front of the entrance.

Protected areas are patrolled by rangers. They wear green uniforms with the respective emblems. Rangers patrol the area under their supervision during the day and are authorised to fine violators. For example, a fine for an individual grilling meat in the wrong place is 4,000 roubles.

Trees and sports

The main treasure adorning the Severnoye Butovo Environmental Park is its trees – pines, spruces, larches, oaks and lindens. Employees routinely plant new trees to replace the dead ones. The number of seedlings is not standardised and depends on how many plants died in the past and for what reason. As a rule, the same species are planted. Also, some fruit and berry plants are often added to maintain food supply for birds and wild animals.

“It is prohibited to plant non-indigenous tree species in protected areas, that is, plants that are not typical for this place,” Andrei Kharchenko explains.

Fallen trees are removed only if they obstruct passage, pose risk or interfere with sights. In other cases, they are left as a source of food and a nesting place. Birds and insects willingly settle in such places.

“In a protected area, we must preserve the natural forest fragments. This is important, for example, for entire populations of insects and small animals we rarely even notice. Once we found a duck's nest near a log and decided not to remove it,” Andrei Kharchenko says.

Some areas in the woods are enclosed by hedges. This helps hide the areas where the Red Data Book plants grow from visitors to protect them from trampling.

Now experts are working on ideas to improve the park. Some tracks are going to be lit up at night, such as the routes used by the residents of new apartment blocks to cross to the Bulvar Dmitrya Donskogo station and back. The pond on Akademika Glushko Street is also slated for improvement.

Nature or comfort?

Residents and guests of Butovo can now conveniently walk or ride a bike between tall pines in the woods. There is only one asphalt road in the park, and it is a circular road. Other tracks are unpaved or have a gravel surface.

There are no bike rentals in the park, but they may be set up in the future. The volleyball court at the edge of the woods will remain. However, if it comes to choosing between nature conservation and people’s comfort, nature will certainly have priority, in line with the protected area status, Andrei Kharchenko emphasised.

For example, new asphalt roads will not be built there.

“It is prohibited to seal the soil in protected areas. The existing roads will remain, but any new ones will be covered with a water-permeable surface (granite dust or tiles). This is consistent with the state environmental impact assessment,” says Andrei Kharchenko.

“If a bird that nests here eats a poisoned tick, it can be seriously harmed and even killed. We cannot allow this,” Andrei Kharchenko explains.

The giant hogweed is regularly cut throughout the season. This weed is closely monitored by inspectors. However, it occasionally reappears in new areas because its seeds are easily spread on people’s soles or animal fur and quickly take root. Sometimes it is cut at the request of the local residents. By the way, they often mistake angelica for hogweed. A completely harmless plant, angelica sprouts white umbrellas very similar to hogweed. Just like hogweed, nettles and other grasses, angelica can grow as tall as people.

Despite the planned landscaping works, the natural environment will be preserved as much as possible. Quiet natural corners will definitely continue to exist side by side with park benches, playgrounds and sports grounds.


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