Terrassa’s Green Ring

The municipal government of Terrassa boasts a flock of over 700 sheep and has plans to open a vineyard. It also manages vast tracts of forest.

It’s not your typical recipe for city life, but the 40 square kilometres of greenbelt surrounding the city provides a green lung and space for leisure and economic activity to its residents.

‘Anella Verda’

The idea to preserve a green ring (‘anella verda’ in Catalan) around the city took seed a decade ago thanks to a well-supported public declaration that espoused a need to reverse the degradation of natural and agricultural land in Terrassa. The goal was to minimise the city’s overall environmental impact and to promote the integral management of the territory’s ecological, economic and social resources.

Now the Anella Verda de Terrassa is firmly rooted in the municipality’s plans for the sustainable management of its territory.

“Terrassa is known for its industrial and modernist past” says Carles Caballero, Councillor for the Environmental, Sustainable and Energy transition, for Terrassa city Council, which is perhaps an added reason for why the city sought to instigate a green revolution in which the Anella Verda plays centre stage.

We want this to be a living area
— Carles Caballero, Councillor, Terrassa City Council

“We want this to be a living area,” says Caballero. Just as well, given that more and more people are now using this area, “especially over the past year, as many people looked for alternative things to do,” adds Caballero.

The case of the missing boar

Recently, a campaign has been carried out in newspapers and social networks to raise awareness among locals about how everyone can help preserve the territory of the Anella Verda.

A network of paths and designated spaces further aims to ensure that the area can be used sustainably and socially so as to limit the environmental impacts.

“As the municipality, we only directly manage 13% of this land,” explains Caballero, “so we make a lot of agreements with private owners to ensure it is managed sustainably, including the ongoing development of a 35km footpath which will loop all around the city and allow access to all the main attractions.”

And the focus on awareness raising has found its way into the local school syllabus. Children up to 5 years old arrive in their class groups to learn about the flora and fauna of their home through games. Have you heard about the missing boar, little El Tacat? By following the ‘tracks’ that El Tacat leaves behind the children get to learn about different trees and animals that live in their neighbourhood, while solving the case of the missing infant alongside inspector badger.

More broadly, the values of the green ring are shared with children of all ages. Older kids are encouraged to study the biodiversity of the area, look at how humans impact nature, and to learn about the historical evolution of the landscape and the tensions of its current use.

Gastronomic Terrassa

Agriculture, livestock and logging industries all make use of the land of the green ring. However, Terrassa is also committed to the recovery of local products such as spelt bread or cabbage, grown in the Anella Verda. The Terrassa gastronomic brand seeks to boost gastronomic tourism. One crop that future tourists might look forward to sampling comes from the El Terrassenc grape.

“Once, the region of Terrassa was known for its wine, but the industrial revolution of the late 19th and early 20th century saw the abandonment of local production,” says Caballero. “We’ll start again on a small scale, with 1.5 acres, and in four years’ time, once the vines are mature enough we might have our first crop.”

The region of Terassa was known for its wine
— Carles Caballero, Councillor, Terrassa City Council

The city council hopes that efforts like these to reinvigorate the area will be further supported and expanded by local private producers.

Nature corridors

The Green ring sustains a great deal of biodiversity, and the City Council is responsible for the sustainable management of forests, the maintenance of some agricultural areas, and the preservation of water.

This has seen, for instance, the establishment of areas of special protection for biodiversity, the restriction of certain constructions, and the designation of special protection for its soil.

Sustainable forest management isn’t the natural preserve of a city council, but it’s necessary to ensure the forested areas are suitable for social use, regulated so far as possible for fire, and that other parts of the natural infrastructure are well managed, such as ensuring waste or vegetation doesn’t clog up the water channels.

“We have a heard of over 700 sheep grazing the forest, reducing the fuel load sustainably,” explains Caballero. The City Council also ensures the conservation of private forests, by promoting the sustainable management and the use of biomass as a source of energy.

In this regard, the Vallès biomass centre, located in the city itself, has a production capacity of 6,000 tonnes per year, and supplies energy to the Terrassa Health Consortium and the Autonomous University of Barcelona.

In fact, this regard for nature carries through into the urban territory, where, for instance, the Sabt Llorenç del Munt i l’Obac park traverses the Northern part of the muncipality, opening it up to nature. The city even has a current proposal to extend this area by more than 700 hectares.

Within the urban territory limits, Terrassa also promotes urban biodiversity, by planting trees and shrubs, opening up new areas for insects and birds.

But that’s a story for another day.

Terrassa is part of the Mayors Alliance for the European green Deal, which strives to show that a sustainable transition is possible, with mayors and cities on board. More here.

Alex Godson Eurocities Writer