Parks, beaches and rivers

Quality spaces to ensure public use and environmental functionality


One of the objectives of the AMB has always been the planning and improvement of metropolitan public spaces as an essential element for its territorial articulation and social cohesion. Both the creation of the network of metropolitan parks and the planning of metropolitan beaches and rivers respond to this objective and have become a priority in terms of management for the metropolitan administration.

In the 2011-2015 period, there are now 40 urban parks in 27 municipalities, with a surface of more than two million square meters. The AMB has promoted an integrated model to manage the vegetation, facilities and street furniture that includes projects and facilities to adapt these spaces to the new social needs. Another important point is a series of promotional and dynamic educational activities with the aim of enhancing the social, heritage and environmental assets of parks.

The AMB is in charge of maintaining and installing furniture along the 32 km of beaches located between the municipalities of Castelldefels and Montgat. In the 2011-2015 period, it is worth mentioning the actions carried out for the recovery of dune systems, the drafting of the Furniture catalogue, which includes a large number of elements designed by the AMB, and the Management plan for street furniture, infrastructure and facilities on the metropolitan beaches.

The recovery of river areas entails the management of most complex spaces where there is a combination of infrastructures, services, natural spaces and leisure activities. The AMB has continued to carry out actions to regenerate the areas around Llobregat and Besòs rivers, to guarantee their environmental functions while allowing citizens to fully enjoy these areas as spaces with a natural, heritage and leisure value.

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La Mariona park
La Mariona park | Photograph: Mari Luz Vidal

The AMB manages the network of metropolitan parks, which currently includes 40 large urban parks in 27 municipalities on 225 hectares of land.

The integrated management of parks carried out by the AMB continues to be a reference point in terms of public space management. The results from the surveys conducted every two years confirm the satisfaction of users with parks. In 2013 users rated the perceived quality of the parks 7.4 on a scale of 10.

In recent years, the management of parks has also had an impact on efficiency and sustainability:
  • Telematic management of watering systems in 60% of parks.
  • Reuse of plant waste.
  • Management of waste in metropolitan plants.
Managing the vegetation, facilities and furniture jointly has also entailed integrated improvement projects in parks, such as the following:
  • The Botanical Gardens of Barcelona.
  • The historical parks of Torreblanca, Can Vidalet and Can Solei i de Ca l'Arnús.
  • Large parks like La Muntanyeta and Parc del Pi Gros.
Another prominent action has been the design project, undertaken by the AMB, of the new signposts installed throughout the park network.

In the field of promoting the values of the park network, several projects were launched, such as the Jugatecambiental (environmental playground) and the thematic tours, and further work has been done for educational proposals, with the preparation of six educational dossiers. These activities registered a participation of more than 15,000 people during 2014.

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Metropolitan parks
  • Inclusion of new parks to the network
    Turó del Sastre park
    Turó del Sastre park, in Montgat | Photograph: Jordi Surroca

    The network of metropolitan parks was created at the start of the 1990s and had an initial area of 70 hectares. Since then it has grown constantly, with the inclusion of new parks and the extension of parks already existing.

    Over the past four years, 9 parks have joined the network, meaning that in 2015 the network of metropolitan parks has 40 parks, distributed in 27 municipalities, covering a total area of 224.85 hectares.

    To be precise, in 2015 the following parks have been included in the network:
  • Activities in parks
    Activity in a metropolitan park
    Activity in a metropolitan park, organised under the AMB Programme for sustanability education

    During 2014, the Jugatecambiental facilities started to be installed. Their goal is to provide a space for families to play and experiment and to be a point of information on the enhancement activities on offer. In 2015 the network of parks will have more than 20 Jugatecambiental projects up and running.

    These are the services offered at the Jugatecambiental facilities:
    • Space to play and experiment.
    • Game materials for loan.
    • Information on the activities to promote the AMB public spaces.
    • Workshops.
    • Guided tours around the park and its surroundings.
    Cycles of activities at the metropolitan parks, beaches and rivers have been organized since 2011, with the collaboration of the Natural Science Museum, town councils and other entities, with different activities every Saturday and Sunday. These activities aim to promote the discovery of the values of these metropolitan spaces. This cycle of activities is run twice a year: in spring and winter; until 2014 almost 4,000 people have participated.

    Besides these activities, the parks have also occasionally been used for local activities and festivities that have been supported by the AMB, such as:
    • "Planta't als Botànics", in the Botanical Garden of Barcelona and the Historical Botanical Garden.
    • "Festa del Badiu", in Can Solei i de Ca l'Arnús park, in the municipality of Badalona.
    • "Festa Esplai", in Nou park of El Prat de Llobregat.
    Parks and beaches are spaces where schools and the general public can learn and experiment. The goals of the educational projects developed in these spaces are to make these public spaces known, as well as their environmental and heritage values, and thus promote their conservation and responsible use. Since the 2013-2014 school year, around 15 educational activities are offered at parks and beaches within the framework of the AMB Sustainability Education Programme, targeting schools, families and adults. More than 4,400 students and families participated in the educational activities in parks and beaches during the 2013-2014 school year.

    The AMB, together with the town councils, has promoted new spaces in parks to encourage more activity in them as an educational resource for schools: butterfly gardens, insect hotels, the garden of science or the interpretation centre in the park of Can Solei i de Ca l'Arnús are just a few examples of this.

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    Activities in parks
    Educational activities Catalogue (cat)
  • Management model
    The AMB has promoted a comprehensive management model for the different elements in the metropolitan parks:
    • Vegetation
    • Furniture
    • Playgrounds and sports elements
    • Paving
    • Water, lighting and sanitation installations
    • Constructed elements
    This model has achieved the UNE-EN-ISO 9001:2000 quality certification and encompasses the comprehensive management and continuous improvement of the metropolitan parks, taking into account the user needs, adaptation to new uses and the implementation of environmentally sustainable measures.

    During this mandate a large number of actions have been carried out, including:
    • Improvements to planted trees.
    • Inclusion, extension or redistribution of children's playground or sports elements.
    • Improvement of water and lighting installations.
    • Improvements to accessibility to the parks.
    • Recovery and reopening of spaces that are closed to the public.

    In collaboration with the City Council of Barcelona, studies are conducted every two years on user satisfaction with metropolitan parks. The goal of these studies is to find out about:
    • User satisfaction.
    • Usage habits in parks.
    • The visit group and the sociological characteristics of users.
    • The park model.
    The reports with the data obtained allow seeing the evolution of parks and are presented to all town councils to study the results and take decisions on future actions.

    In the last study, carried out in June 2013, 4,031 face-to-face surveys were conducted in 33 different parks. These are some of the results:
    • The satisfaction index is 102%, meaning that the appreciation of the park after visiting it is higher than before.
    • The strong points relating to parks continue to be elements like tranquillity and proximity.
    • The weaknesses detected have to do with safety, toilettes and services.
    • The users of these parks spend 1 h and 45 min. in the parks on average.
    • 37.7% of users go to parks daily.
    • 29.5% of users go to parks once a week.
    • Occasional visits, representing 13.5%, is the frequency that has most increased.
    • The main reasons to visit parks are to walk or relax, taking children to play, or taking dogs for walks, or to practice sport.

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    Quality management in parks
    Management model
  • Sustainability
    The AMB has put in place measures to improve sustainability and efficiency; these have led to the awarding of the UNE-EN-ISO 14001:2004 environmental certification.

    In the case of park vegetation, shrubby and herbaceous plant species have been introduced that are characteristic of our climate, such as natural meadows or warm-season turf grass and Mediterranean shrubs, with a lower water consumption and less maintenance, while still having an ornamental and landscape value.

    Linked to maintenance tasks, measures have also been implemented to reduce the generation of green waste, such as the shredding of organic waste from the parks, or composting at plants, and reducing the use of aerial chemical treatments, which have been replaced by biological or endotherapy treatments.

    Regarding water management, the AMB has promoted the use of water from the subsoil, facilities have been improved giving priority to efficient watering systems, and telematic management systems have been implemented to control water consumption in greater detail. There are also plans to naturalise and re-circulate the water in lakes and ponds using plant species that have not only helped eliminating chemical treatments or reducing the number of times they have had to be emptied, but that have also made possible the proliferation of animal species linked to water, such as amphibians, birds and dragonflies.

    As for lighting, energy-saving measures have been implemented, as well as measures to reduce light pollution through low-consumption LED lights and by replacing mercury bulbs by sodium ones, among other improvements.

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    Sustainability in metropolitan parks
  • Collserola park
    Collserola park
    Collserola park

    The Collserola range is one of the large natural spaces in the metropolitan area and is an essential part of its green infrastructure; it is the green lung of a territory with 3.2 million inhabitants. This space is managed by the Collserola Park Consortium, which is made up of the Catalan Government, the Provincial Council of Barcelona, the AMB and the municipalities involved.

    During this mandate, the Consortium has continued to promote the preservation and maintenance of these spaces, planning the uses of the park and environmental education. The main novelty is the works that have been done to heighten the protection of the Park through a new Special Protection Plan. The current tool was very advanced when it was drafted and indeed has been useful; however, when the Catalan Government created the Collserola Natural Park in 2010, it recommended updating this plan. In this regard, after the work carried out by the administrations involved, the AMB initially approved the document advancing the new Special Protection Plan for the environment of the Collserola range. This plan will be a new and more advanced tool to organize and preserve the ecological and heritage elements, by planning the uses and activities that can be carried out in this natural area.
  • Main actions 2011-2015
    During the 2011-2015 period main projects in parks management have been carried out under the following investment programmes:

    CAME: Metropolitan Actions Catalogue
    PACT: Programme for Territorial Cohesion Actions
    AT: AMB Technical Assistance Plan

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    See AMB projects, works and actions
    Complete listing of mains actions in public space and facilities 2011-2015 (cat)
The 40 beaches pertaining to 8 coastal municipalities extending up to 30 km are an extremely relevant public space and in 2014 they received around 8.5 million visitors. The integrated management of beaches, based on certified quality models, is an example of public space management. Surveys confirm high user satisfaction levels, since in 2014 users rated their satisfaction at 7.2 on a scale of 10.

Metropolitan beach
Metropolitan beaches

In order to improve and organise the coastline, the AMB has drafted and adopted the Plan to organise the furniture, infrastructure and facilities on metropolitan beaches, as well as the Catalogue on beach furniture. Recently, the new modules for chemical public toilettes have been designed as well as the beach bars, the loudspeaker pole with public Wi-Fi, the korfball basket and the large-capacity semi-buried containers.

Together with the improvement of infrastructures, there is a complete agenda of activities for educational dossiers and activities targeting all audiences. During this period, 2.0 services have also been promoted with the creation of the Infoplatges mobile App.

As for the environmental dimension, since 2014 the AMB has promoted the Hybrid Dunes project within the framework of the European OPERAs project to promote and improve dune ecosystems. It is also worth mentioning the efficient management of collected waste and the control on water consumption.

Beach in Viladecans
Beach in Viladecans | Photograph: Jordi Surroca

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  • Activities
    Cycles of activities at the metropolitan beaches and parks have been organized since 2011, with the collaboration of the Natural Science Museum, town councils and other entities, with different activities every Saturday and Sunday. These activities aim to promote the discovery of the values of these metropolitan spaces.

    The cycle of activities takes place twice each year: in spring and winter, and until 2014 almost 4,000 people have participated.

    Beaches are spaces where schools and the general public can learn and experiment. The goals of the educational activities and projects developed in these spaces are to make these public spaces known, as well as their environmental and heritage values, and thus promote their conservation and responsible use.

    Since the 2013-2014 school year, around 15 educational activities are offered at beaches and parks, within the framework of the AMB Sustainability Education Programme, targeting schools, families and adults. More than 4,400 students and families participated in the educational activities in parks and beaches during the 2013-2014 school year.

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    Activities in beaches
    Educational activities Catalogue (cat)
  • Management model
    Furniture and facilities in metropolitan beaches
    Furniture and facilities in metropolitan beaches | Photograph: Jordi Surroca

    Barcelona's metropolitan coastline unites 8 municipalities and runs along 42 km, 30 of which are beaches. The AMB is in charge of the integrated management of the beaches, and is in charge of all the elements on them: sand, furniture, playgrounds and sports facilities, water and sanitation facilities, and seasonal modules such as toilettes, first-aid, police and beach bars. This integrated management not only includes the basic maintenance tasks, but also the continuous improvement of the metropolitan beaches, taking user needs into account and adapting the spaces to new uses, as well as improving the environmental functionality of these natural spaces.

    The metropolitan beach management model, which has been awarded the UNE-EN-ISO 9001:2000 certification, includes continuous assessment measures to detect new demands and improvements needed, so as to allow everyone to enjoy functional and quality spaces.

    Considering the number and variety of beach facilities, the AMB started to work towards harmonisation so as to make these elements more efficient and make it easier to identify them all along the metropolitan coastline. These works led to the adoption, in 2012, of the Plan to organise the facilities, furniture and services on metropolitan beaches, which defines and organises elements relating to:
    • Safety: Marking off the swimming areas, breakwaters and boat transit areas. Observation and surveillance from watch towers and immediate medical attention in specific modules.
    • Hygiene conditions: Semi-buried waste bins and containers placed along the coast. Installation of public toilettes, showers and foot showers.
    • Accessibility: Improvements to accesses to beaches and elimination of physical barriers. Signalling of areas with a high environmental value and improvement to signpost.
    • Leisure and sports activities: Defining a new catalogue of furniture and organising these activities to facilitate the practice of sports activities.
    • Shops and restaurants: Providing beaches with these services, by organizing them and optimizing space.
    So as to advance in the implementation of the Plan, the metropolitan administration, in 2012, drafted the Catalogue of beach furniture, to find the models that are best suited to user needs, the requirements of planners, that are multi-functional and to simplify maintenance tasks.

    The Barcelona Metropolitan Area, in collaboration with the Opinion Survey Department at the City Council of Barcelona, carries out a study on beach occupancy every two years, for all metropolitan beaches except Barcelona. The 2014 study was conducted through 40 days of direct observation, from the middle of May to the middle of September, on around 15 beaches in seven municipalities on the metropolitan coastline. The data collected allow having an estimate on the number of people on the beaches during the summer months: excluding data for the city of Barcelona, the metropolitan beaches were used by 4.75 million people -8.5 million if we include Barcelona–. The results of the study are presented to all the town councils involved so as to analyse the data and take decisions on future actions.

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    Quality management of beaches
    Services and facilities in metropolitan beaches
  • Sustainability
    The AMB has established sustainability and efficiency improvement measures for the management of metropolitan beaches; this has led to the UNE-EN-ISO 14001:2004 environmental certification.

    These are some of the actions that could be highlighted:
    • Fitting showers with water flow reducers.
    • Undertaking a study on water consumption of showers.
    • Implementing waste sorting at destination and waste recovery from semi-buried waste bins and containers on beaches.
    • Regular sand analysis to detect and disinfect pathogenic microorganisms.
    • Using FSC certified wood, or an equivalent, for furniture.
    • Drafting a protocol for the management of coastal dune systems and the associated vegetation and wildlife, among the different administrations involved.
    • Organizing guided tours to the coastal dune systems, as an element of environmental education and to transmit heritage values.
  • Dunes and hybrid dunes
    The AMB has joined the European OPERAs project, to recover and improve the dune systems at the beaches of Sant Adrià de Besòs, El Prat de Llobregat, Viladecans, Gavà and Castelldefels.

    The aim of this project is the recovery of the dune ecosystems on metropolitan beaches. Dunes are the habitat of several autochthonous animal and plant species. For years, however, and due to human action and invasive species, dunes have gradually disappeared.

    This project contains several actions:
    • Eliminating invasive plant species that damage the ecosystem, to help autochthonous plants to grow.
    • Creating new dune, to bring plant an animal species back into the area. Currently, sand that is washed up in storms is being moved to create new dunes that improve the dune ecosystem and minimize the use of heavy machinery, as well as the economic costs.
    Until now, actions have been carried out in 17 different areas, along more than 1,500 linear meters of beach, with an area of around 15,000 sqm.

    The experience gained by the AMB technicians through these actions to improve the dune systems has entailed a better management of the works.
  • Infoplatges App
    In 2014, the AMB presented the Infoplatges App, a mobile application for iOS and Android to find out about the conditions on the metropolitan beaches. It also allows users to inform the AMB technicians in real time of any incidents on a beach (for example, if a shower is leaking water), attaching a photo, so they can solve the problem quickly. The app also allows users to monitor the incident and suggest improvements.

    The App provides the following information:
    • Information on the municipality to which the beach belongs.
    • Geolocation.
    • Weather information: temperature, wind speed and sea conditions.
    • Services and facilities on the beaches of each municipality.
    • Points of access, car parks and public transport.
    • Recommended activities.
    • Photographs.

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The AMB is working to consolidate the metropolitan green areas, i.e. the connected network of spaces that bring environmental quality to the urban fabric. This network includes all the environmental elements that contribute, from streets and squares, trees, or urban agriculture elements to metropolitan parks and large protected areas. Within this context, the network of metropolitan streams and rivers holds a key role. The AMB develops actions to recover metropolitan river areas through integrated projects combining the improvement of the hydrological network and environmental and social recovery by reintegrating these spaces into the geography of metropolitan cities and towns.

Recovery of Llobregat river
Peu provisional
Recovery of Llobregat river | Photograph: Jordi Surroca

The projects that are being implemented during this mandate have a budget of 3.6 million Euros, meaning the investment made in these spaces has been increased to 40 million Euros, mainly funded through subsidies and collaboration agreements with other public administrations. These figures reflect the efforts made by the AMB to find a common understanding among the different agents involved, as well as the importance given to the transformation and regeneration of rivers by the European Union. These projects have made it possible to turn rivers that at the end of the 1970s were among the most polluted in Europe to become spaces with social and environmental quality, and with a strong cohesion effect on the metropolitan territory.
  • Llobregat
    Riu Llobregat park
    Riu Llobregat park | Photograph: Jordi Surroca

    The project to turn the river Llobregat, as Manuel de Solà-Morales said, into the Passeig de Gràcia of metropolitan Barcelona continues. The AMB has given the task of managing the Llobregat river area since 2006. This has made it possible to coordinate integrated projects to maintain and recover the social and environment aspects of these spaces and to improve accessibility from urban centres. This has meant that the river is no longer a marginal suburban area and has become a structuring area in the metropolis that is visited by 2.4 million people each year.

    During the 2011-2015 period, beside the ongoing maintenance activities, other actions have been implemented, such as the improvements made to the track Camí del Sorral in El Prat de Llobregat, the creation of a ford crossing the river between the municipalities of Sant Boi de Llobregat and Sant Joan Despí, the regeneration of the riverbank at Sant Vicenç dels Horts, and making it accessible from downtown Sant Feliu de Llobregat.

    These actions are complemented by other actions to disseminate knowledge on the area among citizens through publications and teaching materials, and also organising environmental education and leisure activities, in collaboration with the municipalities. Another relevant action has been the development of the Parc Riu Llobregat application, providing information to users on the environmental, leisure and heritage points of interest in a dynamic and georeferenced way.

    Riu Llobregat park
    Peu provisional
    Riu Llobregat park | Photograph: Jordi Surroca

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    Riu Llobregat park website
  • Besòs - Ripoll
    Besòs river
    Recovery actions and improving accessibility to Besòs river
    During this mandate, the AMB River Area Service has started works on the basin of the rivers Besòs and Ripoll, and in doing so has extended its action to a space that is just as relevant as that of the river Llobregat in terms of its environmental, social and territorial dimensions in the metropolitan context.

    For the river Ripoll, a project has been started that is very similar, methodologically, to the one carried out in the river Llobregat; at this stage, a plan of action to improve accessibility to the river area in Barberà del Vallès has been conceived, to create new access points to heritage elements and new recreational areas.

    Another important action has been the project to make the bank of the river Besòs accessible and usable by the public in the municipality of Montcada i Reixac, by combining social and environmental functions, such as water purification and river plantations, in a relatively small area. This action has brought a big transformation to the Metropolitan park of the river Besòs that, although it was strongly consolidated, did not have yet included access to the river area from this municipality

    improving accessibility to Besòs river
    Recovery actions and improving accessibility to Besòs river
  • Mains actions 2011-2015
    Barberà del Vallès Project to improve accessibility to the river Ripoll.
    Project to improve accessibility to the river Ripoll, phase 2.
    Montcada i Reixac Project for the social and environmental recovery of the river Besòs.
    Molins de Rei Executive project to place signposts along the footpath next to the river Llobregat
    Project to improve the footpath next to the river Llobregat in Molins de Rei, phase 1, between Molins de Rei and Papiol, and the connection with the Vallvidrera stream
    El Prat de Llobregat Project for the social and environmental recovery of the Sorral footpath, between the C-31 road and the boundaries of Sant Boi de Llobregat.
    Sant Andreu de la Barca Project to remodel the "Fuente del Hermano".
    Sant Boi de Llobregat Project to build the Bori vegetable gardens with a social function (Within the European SIDIGMED project).
    Sant Feliu de Llobregat Project to clear the footpath giving access to the river Llobregat.
    Sant Joan Despí Actions to recover the under-bridge of the ADIF railway bridge with graphic arts.
    Sant Vicenç dels Horts Project to clear the country footpaths giving access to the riverbank and for the environmental recovery of the Llobregat river area. Phase 2.
    Several Project for the social and environmental recovery of the Llobregat riverbank by building a ford between the municipalities of Sant Boi de Llobregat and Sant Joan Despí.