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A New Paris Walk: <em>La Petite Ceinture</em>

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New York City has the High Line that runs alongside one mile of the old West Side Line Central Railroad, a nice and green elevated hike, which was designed after the Parisian Promenade Plantée, or Coulée Verte, a 3-mile long linear park also built on top of ancient railway tracks, opened 20 years ago.

Now a new walking path just opened in Paris' 15th arrondissement, on time for brisk Fall promenades, baptized the Petite Ceinture (the little belt), also reclaimed from parts of an old urban railway route. From this one you can see the Eiffel Tower in the background, just like the aerial subway in that district allows you to do, by crossing the river Seine on high bridges. The tracks are still in place and will rust away eventually.

The original Petite Ceinture railway track was built between 1852 and 1869, during the Second Empire period -- the reign of Napoleon III, and years before the Métro was even a project. The belt was so-named because it is a loop around the fringes of Paris; in use to transport passengers until 1934, and for freight merchandise until the late 80s. The tracks were never removed and a few activists are trying to revive the route into a working rail.

The hired landscapers have recreated along the mile-long garden the different types of natural habitat such as forest, prairie, woods, hedges and bush, with over 200 species of plants, and where 20 species of birds have been spotted. A true ecological project running in-between urban landscape in a green revival of a neighborhood.

To respect the lives of the resident animals, no lights have been installed, and the corridor is closed at night. The park is only accessible by elevators or stairs, no guerrilla entrance is available. This is the third park built in Paris on old railroad tracks reclaimed from abandonment. Inaugurated last month, the green walk has six different access entrances, and is open every day.

There is a definite charm and a poetic feeling about walking on or alongside railroad tracks, maybe it's because we were told as children that it was a forbidden thing to do.