More than pretty places

By Liao Fangzhou Source:Global Times Published: 2014-5-27 19:28:01

One of the well-manicured lawns in People's Square, some of the more than 1,400 hectares of greenery in the city. Photo: Yang Hui/GT

Shanghai people and visitors revel daily in the 1,400 or so hectares of greenery on offer in the city's 130-plus parks. And now many of the parks are offering even more fun and pleasure for their visitors.

In Changning district, several parks including Hongqiao Park, Tianyuan Park, and Kaiqiao Green Space have been upgraded. "The reason behind this upgrading is simple - it is essential that we fix rundown infrastructure so that the parks can continue to be enjoyed. This work ensures that visitors have a safe and comfortable environment," explained an official surnamed Xu from the Changning office of the Shanghai Municipal Afforestation and City Appearance and Environmental Sanitation Administration.

Some of the upgrades will mean that some parks will be open for longer. Tianyuan Park on Shuicheng Road, Shuixia Park on Xianxia Road, and the Huashan Children's Park on Huashan Road will be open during the evening hours from July 1, with improved lightning and safety facilities.

The revamps are not just improving current facilities either. Xu said noise control systems have been introduced into these parks for the first time. "By monitoring the noise levels, staff can intervene and approach visitors who are causing disruptions by being too loud," he explained.

Citywide transformations

The transformations are not confined to Changning district. In Daning-Lingshi Park, a recently renovated park in Zhabei district, the park's signature artificial beach has been revamped. This is the only beach in Shanghai with white sand and has been very popular with visitors over the years.

"The old sand that made up the beach was not looking the best so we replaced it all with clean new sand. We also built an improved drainage system to better cope with rain," said the deputy manager of the park's management company, Zhang Xiaodong.

One popular park being renovated is Luxun Park in Hongkou district. This park, one of the most popular city parks, was closed in August for the renovations except for a 20,000-square-meter area of lawn that was kept open for regulars. Shao Qian, the deputy head of Luxun Park, said the park, which was established in 1896, had its last major renovation in 1959 and as a result had become quite dated.

The renovation here saw silt cleaned from the 36,000-square-meter lake, walls and fences modernized, park benches and seating updated and extended, paths and walkways resurfaced and improved and new trash bins and signposts installed so that visitors can find their way around more easily.

A couple dance as a musician serenades them in Luxun Park. Photo: Yang Hui/GT

Government funded

Shao said the cost of the renovations is paid by a special grant from the local government. The improvements for other city parks are similarly funded.

Private parks, on the other hand, are not supported by government funding which is why Century Park in Pudong New Area, one of the best-known parks in Shanghai, has not seen any major renovations since it opened in 1997.

Zhou Guoqing is the manager of the Century Park's management company and told the Oriental Morning Post recently that because the park has been suffering financial losses since 2011 as a result of rises in the cost of labor, fertilizers and pesticides, renovations are unlikely to occur.

He said that refurbishing the fountain alone would cost 10 million yuan ($1.60 million) without the cost of checking and updating the pipes and drainage systems. The park could not afford a renovation and the company which owned the park was not interested in upgrading.

Upgrading the infrastructure is just one part of the current park improvement program. In 2012, the Shanghai Municipal Afforestation and City Appearance and Environmental Sanitation Administration surveyed local parks and concluded that they had been focusing on plants, flowers and trees but neglecting cultural values. Because of this, the survey suggested, city parks lacked character and failed to impress, thus failing the expectations of both locals and visitors.

Visitors take a break beside a pond with lotuses in People's Park. Photo: Yang Hui/GT

Finding an edge

Some parks are now trying to find their own character and setting out to establish themselves with history and settings.

Luxun Park is apparently playing the "history" card as it builds a wall at the main entrance which will detail the park's part in history. As well, the park will revive drinking fountains as a nostalgic look back to the past when the British-style water bubblers were found throughout the park - as they were in 1929. However for the past 80 years the drinking fountains have been unused, seriously damaged and unhygienic. With the renovations the park has installed new fountains that will offer safe cool drinking water for visitors.

Jiang Yong is a Jiangxi Province native who has spent the last seven years living in Hongkou and he has been a frequent visitor to Luxun Park. During the rehabilitation project, she still occasionally visited the park for fresh air and a stroll.

She told the Global Times that she found the idea of accentuating the park's historic value appealing. "Historical connections can enhance one's experience in a park - I used to walk in the park picturing what had happened here in the past in my head and this gave me special feelings.

"I think the new wall will make the historical connections a lot more obvious and the tap water will add an authentic aura, so that visitors will appreciate the park more."

People's Park welcomes tourists and locals although foreigners like to see the matchmaking. Photo: Yang Hui/GT

Catering for kids

The Daning-Lingshi Park, on the other hand, is spurning history and targeting the younger generations. Deputy manager Zhang said the park had been very popular with the residents of nearby neighborhoods and, in particular, with families with young children. When the Global Times visited the park on a Sunday afternoon, a lot of parents and grandparents were enjoying the park with babies and children.

The park is building a new exhibition hall titled "Baby Boss" where young children can dress up and experience the world as adults. "It covers thousands of square meters and simulates an adult world with streets, public transport and buildings. Children can experience being adult workers in this world and can try their hand at more than 50 occupations, including bank employees, shop assistants, and journalists," Zhang explained. He said that the hall would be open before the end of the year.

Liu Dayi is a 60-something grandfather who comes regularly to the park with his son, daughter-in-law, and their 3-year-old son. He said the boy often got bored with the beach, the plants and flowers, but the new exhibition hall might be more attractive.

"At present the park is just about nature, but maybe in the future the kid will be able to play outside for a while and then try the fun of experiencing different professions. It might not only make the day out more diverse and fun but could encourage an interest in a different career at an early stage," Liu said.

The Kaiqiao Green Space, a park in Changning district, is now focusing on culture and art by promoting its Liu Haisu Art Museum, a gallery named after the prominent Chinese painter and art educator.

Changes are also happening at Fuxing Park in Huangpu district, a popular park where people escape from the busy downtown streets and where they can exercise, sing and dance, or play chess. This has made the park famous for foreigners - it is ranked No.21 in the 800-plus Shanghai tourist attractions on and the top ranked park.

After the Shanghai Association for Science and Technology announced in April that it was negotiating with the Huangpu district government and the Shanghai Municipal Afforestation and City Appearance and Environmental Sanitation Administration to set up a science-themed park, many have said that Fuxing Park was the obvious choice.

Apart from its great location, the Shanghai Science Hall, where the city's scientists and associates get together, is right next to the park.

Some suggest the appeal of some parks does not come through planning and branding but from unpredictable sources. Zhen Ping, a Shanghai woman working in an insurance company, said that when overseas friends have visited Shanghai in recent years they have all been keen to visit People's Park.

"It's not because it is a central park and occasionally has luxury brand exhibitions, but because they heard about its matchmaking. They were very curious to see this themselves and they really enjoyed themselves at the park. For foreigners at least, the matchmaking corner has become the selling point for the park," said Zhen.

Newspaper headline: Shanghai parks undergo revamping and remodeling

Posted in: Society, Metro Shanghai, City Panorama

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