Kızkalesi case study – Metropolitan perspective

The meeting with representatives of metropolitan institutions and organizations was held at the Faculty of Architecture, Mersin University on December 8, 2021. The discussion was moderated by Yasemin Sarıkaya Levent and Tolga Levent. In the meeting the following persons were present: Barbaros Bektaş (Mersin Metropolitan Municipality – Chief planner responsible from Erdemli District), Barış Başeren (Mersin Directorate of Water Affairs – Engineer responsible from infrastructural issues), Ahmet Yıldız (Denizkızı Incorporated Company – Vice manager responsible from tourism), Feriha Baş (Mersin Museum, Vice president and archaeologist responsible from scientific excavations in Korykos archaeological site), Fikret Ünlüer (Freelance Planner – Author of the Kızkalesi spatial plans), Nupelda Bedirhanoğlu (Mezitli Municipality), and Gizem Akdeniz (Freelance Planner).

It was nice to hear that local stakeholders of tourism development and spatial planning are glad to host participants of SPOT project study visit in Mersin. It is important that spatial planners of the region are eager to apply achievements of both project and study visit: policy recommendations in particular. Sustainability and accessibility are recognized as the keywords of spatial planning in Kızkalesi. Thus, our contribution is expected.

One of important planning issues is that tourism functions are developing in the residential areas, out of areas planned to be used by tourism related activities. Moreover, buildings located in coastal areas assigned now to tourism development do not match tourist facility requirements determined by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. This also increases spatial planning issues. We were explained that star ranked hotels requests plots large enough to meet all legal requirements. Yet, plots in Kızkalesi are small in size to meet the requirements. Moreover, the new amendment to legislation resulted in changes of responsibility in labeling hotels with stars, from local authorities towards centralized system. In consequence, lot of hotels lost their stars. Now, that facilities operates as apart hotels or pensions rather than hotels.

Next issue results from conservation areas plenty of which are located in case study area. We were explained about 3 levels of conservation degree of archeological sites. The 1st degree conservation area means that any construction or agriculture activities are prohibited. On the other hand, the 3rd degree conservations areas are allowed for urban development with low density and only after the careful examination by experts from local museum. Kızkalesi has limited development area as being surrounded by archaeological conservation areas.

Water supply system in tourism destinations is usually extremely fragile and depends on the efficiency of pipes transporting water into populated areas. It was emphasized that water supply system in northern part of Kızkalesi is not sufficient, in summer season in particular. However, the quality of the system should be increased, pipelines and storage tanks should be renewed. Second thing is that households and other entities have to be connected to the civic water supply system. It is also the issue in northern part of case study area. Similar problems are noticed for sewage system. Fortunately, not significant problems of rainwater system are evidenced.

Kızkalesi is very special location. Thus, special approach for spatial planning should be applied. The problems started when central government decentralized spatial planning system and assign spatial planning tasks to municipalities whose employees at that time had no requested skills and competencies. In small communities like Kızkalesi the main problem is that most of people, including all stakeholders of spatial planning like property owners and authorities are relatives, have family connections. This makes every decision to decrease property rights difficult or even impossible. Resulting this development rights have been increased by increasing height of buildings without regarding sustainability of the settlement.

It was emphasized during the meeting that spatial planning of coastal areas has two dimensions in general: horizontal focused on relations and specificity of neighboring coastal destinations, and vertical emphasizing the relations between coastal zone and backward areas. One of our debater emphasized that sometimes would be better to demolish everything and start construction again following state of the art of spatial planning.

We asked during the meeting about social participation in spatial planning. Then, we were explained by local experts that public hearing meetings are only on a paper. Locals might only reject plans. However, this decision might be rejected by the municipality. Spatial planning is not a process following postulates of social participation. Representatives of municipalities and also freelance planners are afraid that such attitude might make spatial planning process never ending story.

It was clarified that the beach of Kızkalesi is being operated by Denizkızı Incorporated Company of Mersin Metropolitan Municipality. The beach is suitable for the use of disabled people and both the municipality and the company have strategies to make public spaces including beaches accessible for disabled people. There are two buffets, 14 restrooms and more than 40 cabins operated by the company. The company hires sun umbrellas and sunbeds, but they do not charge money for the entrance. Yet the beach in front of the land castle is operated by Mersin Museum which charges fee for entrances.

It was indicated that both sea castle and land castle are unique structures in terms of architectural techniques and also for tourism development. Yet both could not be used efficiently for tourism development. Sea castle is reached by small boats operated by private initiatives. There is no proper coastal structure for the operation of boats. Even though scientific excavations and restoration works have been completed and the structure is proper to host different activities, there are not social or cultural activities conducted within the sea castle. In terms of conservation of archeological sites but also flood protection in general, coastal defense structure is requested by now. However, as such system might significantly influence landscape, it should be constructed carefully and with proper awareness. On the other hand, land castle is closed for visits due to ongoing scientific excavations for the last two years. It will take a lot of time to complete archeological excavations and studies which would prevent the use of land castle for touristic purposes for short term. Mersin metropolitan municipality with limited financial and human resources is the only funding institution covering costs of that process. On the one hand, ancient heritage is a core resource for tourism development, on the other one – truly big issue.

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