Zhuhai proudly adds more inviting, verdant free parks
The over 700 free city, district, and community parks in Zhuhai are picturesque, botanically vibrant, inviting for exercise and families, and … not yet numerous enough.
The Plan for Beautiful Zhuhai – City of Parks calls for green spaces of more than 5,000 sq m (1.25 acres) within 500 m (1/3rd mile) of each residential area. So, Fenghuang Mt Scenic Spot, where Fenghuang (Phoenix) Mt Old Path is being restored, is one of the next of several more to be developed, according to the plan.
But the parks were not always free to the public. One of the pioneering steps taken by Zhuhai as an early special economic zones was to open its municipal parks in 2001 with free admission. Since then, park environment and facilities have been continuously improved and professionally maintained.
In 1988, for instance, there were very few parks, most notably Haibin, Jingshan, and Bailiandong (White Lotus Cave) in Jida; Paotai Mt in Gongbei; and Gongleyuan in Tangjiawan. They had dreary vegetation, obsolete facilities, and crude lanes.
Furthermore, they were enclosed by walls and/or fences so that only those who showed themselves at a gate and paid could enter. A ticket at Haibin Park and nearby Haibin Beach then cost 5 jiao (7 cents in today's money), and 1 yuan (14 cents) in the late 1990s. It was mostly tourists from out of town who went there or to Bailiandong and Jingshan parks.
Haibin Park between South Haibin Road and Xianglu Bay
But that changed in 2000 when the CPC Zhuhai Municipal Committee and Municipal People's Government ensured that locals could enter and enjoy the government-invested parks for free as public resources.
Haibin Park came first on Sept 1, 2001. The wall facing Jingshan Road was torn down. Xiangshan, Paotai Mt, Jingshan, and Bailiandong parks followed suit on April 2, 2002.
To cover park maintenance fees, the city allocated funds annually based on park size and standards, while state-owned enterprises were permitted to operate businesses within.
Meanwhile, the government invested more than 20 million yuan ($3 million) to upgrade Haibin Park and tear down unsuitable office buildings, restaurants, and stores located there.
The effect was pronounced. The number of visitors to Haibin Park surged by 500,000 to 1.5 million annually, while those entering Paotai Mt Park doubled in number to 1 million after the introduction of free admission.
And, just last year nearly all city, district, and community parks began staying open for evening exercises, midnight strolls, and escapes to nature after sunset.
Zhuhai's park achievements first gained national attention in 2001. The Chinese Association of Parks visited the city after its annual meeting in Guangzhou that year. Free admission practices have since been trending nationwide.
Xiangshan Lake Park Phase II at the foot of Fenghuang Mt [Photos by Wu Changfu, Shen Yang & Ye Qiuming / WeChat account: zhtqb12345]