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Nezahat Gökyigit Memorial Park, Istanbul, Turkey

Volume 3 Number 8 - February 2002

Gökyigit, Nihat and Güner, Adil

The project was started by Nihat Gökyigit who wished to establish a memorial park in his late wife, Nezahat Gökyigit’s memory, by restoring the environment in an area which had been destroyed by major motorway construction.

In 1995, a protocol between Nihat Gökyigit and the Road Directorate of the 17th Region, assigned the Anadolu Motorway Road-junction at Küçükbakkalköy as a Park (see map). The term of the assignment was initially for five years which was later extended to ten years. The development of the Park is being sponsored and coordinated by Nihat Gökyigit under the umbrella of the TEMA Foundation (The Turkish Foundation for Combating Soil Erosion, Reforestation and the Protection of Natural Habitats) (Foundation - see Box).

The Park is 50 ha (125 acres), which is the largest replanted wooded area in Istanbul and represents a 17.6% increase. To date, more than 50,000 trees and shrubs from 150 different native or alien species have been planted in the Park. This figure is still increasing. There are very few arboreta or botanical gardens in Istanbul where people can learn about plants and trees and in the future, the Park could provide both a scientific and educational facility which would help to rectify this omission.

Objectives of the Park

The Park project fits in with the TEMA Foundation’s campaign of  “Lets put 10 billion oak acorns into the ground” by aiming to have the largest oak (Quercus) collection in the world. For this afforestation project, oak was chosen because there are 23 indigenous taxa in Anatolia which are suited to the climatic and soil conditions of different regions. This will also help TEMA's fight against soil erosion with the oak leaves providing natural fertilizer and its acorns a nutritious feed for livestock. Towards reaching this target, in addition to native oaks, species from other countries are being acquired through international contacts.

One of the aims is to protect several endemic and rare plants of the Istanbul area which are under severe threat because of urban development. At the same time the plants will also serve as an educational facility to increase public awareness.

The addition of a fruit orchard to the Park will help to protect the exotic, rare and disappearing local varieties as well as encourage children to become interested in nature. A collection of Iris species is being made for their beautiful flowers; some of which will be utilised for research. Several raised bulb frames have been constructed from re-cycled railway sleepers to display a collection of smaller bulbs. A rock and scree garden has recently been constructed for plants from steep rocky habitats. An area of the garden is planned for scented plants to highlight scent which is an important components of all organisms. There are plans to develop an area for plants which will tolerate arid conditions which will illustrate how we can adapt to global warming through awareness of the increasing problems of water scarcity and the struggle against desertification.

Administration and Infrastructure

Nihat Gökyigit is the administrative coordinator of the Park. Prof. Dr. Adil Güner is the Keeper of the Park and is responsible for technical supervision as well as the long-term plans to change the Park to an arboretum/botanical garden. Ahmet Inan supports the horticultural and technical infrastructure whilst Mehmet Bilgin supplies bulbous plants. The TEMA Foundation and its president, Hayrettin Karaca, have made invaluable contributions both by overseeing the activities of the Park and the supply of plants. Links have been established with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, U.K. who have advised on several project ideas including the task of producing labels.

Service roads and paths in the Park have been made along with irrigation and fire extinguishing systems comprising 3 deep wells, a water reservoir, pipe network and 40 fire extinguishing hydrants. A large greenhouse provides seed propagation facilities along with outside areas set aside for nursery cuttings.

An office for the administration work and a reference library have been established and a computer data system started using BG-Recorder system to manage the plant accessions details in the Park. Identification, classification and labelling of the existing plants is now well under way. The labelling is seen as a crucial step in the change from park to arboretum/botanical garden, since it will provide the public with good educational information about the plants.

Landscape work has been carried out to make the Park more appealing for visitors. This includes a pergola, two ponds, a cascading water course and a pavilion with viewing terrace. Throughout the Park, thousands of bulbs have been planted.

Research Studies

Under the sponsorship of Nihat Gökyigit, Prof. Dr. M. Tekin Babaç from Abant lzzet Baysal University Faculty of Science and Literature Department of Biology, has started a research collection of native oak species adding to the Park’s existing oak collection. Prof. Dr. Tuna Ekim and Sirri Yüzbasioglu, Istanbul University Faculty of Science Department of Biology, are studying the native and weedy flora of the Park. As a result, they have found that some rare and endemic plants of Istanbul are already growing amongst the native flora of the Park. Prof. Dr. Adil Güner has been making a collection of Turkish Iris species for scientific research with some other bulbous plants to add to the Park’s collection.


The initial important infrastructure towards reaching the above aims has already been completed. Current projects and work will set fruit in the near future, but all these goals require long-term effort, patience and supervision. Therefore, it is necessary that the existing protocol between A. Nihat Gökyigit and the Road Directorate of the 17th Region should be extended to cover a much longer period under the umbrella of the TEMA Foundation.

The Park would provide an opportunity for the people of Istanbul to relax by offering an important cultural, educational and environmental service in a place where urbanization is rapidly occurring.

The TEMA Foundation

Hayrettin Karaca and A. Nihat Gökyigit, two prominent Turkish businessmen, founded the TEMA Foundation (The Turkish Foundation for Combating Soil Erosion, Reforestation and the Protection of Natural Habitats) in 1992. Mr Karaca, is currently the President of TEMA and established the Karaca Arboretum in Yalova, south of Istanbul and A. Nihat Gökyigit is the Chairman of the Board of TEMA.

The chief aim of the foundation is to raise public awareness about several environmental issues which pose great dangers for Turkey's future. The chief issues they want to address are land erosion, deforestation, the fall of productivity in farm land and threats to the biodiversity of Turkey. Although TEMA carries out model projects in rural development, rangeland rehabilitation and reforestation, education of the public on these matters is the main focus of the organisation. The Founders believe that without educating the public on the need for environmental protection, even the most meticulously prepared plans and projects cannot come to life or be sustained. Cooperation from local farmers and villagers in forested regions must be secured before some major projects can to be undertaken.

To expand membership (currently 150,000 members) with TEMA's voluntary workforce (currently 588 volunteer representatives), the public must be won over both in order to encourage donations and to bring pressure on politicians and government agencies forcing them to adopt more environmentally sensitive policies.