Plethora of parks makes choice difficult, but I'm not complaining
Editor's note: Combined with the environment and city park design theory, many cities put forward the development of contemporary city park and make new planning to promote the healthy development of China's city park construction, writes a veteran journalist with China Daily.
Every day, I have an important decision to make: choose a park to go for a walk. A retired man, I have made walking and jogging a part of my daily routine. But choosing the right park for walking or jogging or to do some exercise is not an easy task, because there are too many parks nearby.
The closest park is merely 200 meters away from my home — the Community Olympic Square. Though no bigger than a football field, the square, shaded by trees, is favored by neighboring elderly residents and is packed with about 200 dancers, singers, and chess and card players from sunrise to sunset.
About 1 kilometer to the south of my residential community is the Yuandadu Park, a 10-kilometer long narrow stretch of green built on the site of the city wall and moat of the capital city of the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368). Within the same distance in the west is the National Olympic Sports Center built for the 1990 Asian Games and the Olympic Park built for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games.
I can also choose a number of other parks by taking a 10-minute free bus ride (with my senior citizen's card). These parks include the historical Ditan Park (Temple of Earth) to the south and the huge Olympic Forest Park to the north.
The central authorities have pledged to give the Chinese people a better life. Since environmental improvement is a project that benefits all and parks are a necessity especially in cities, governments at different levels have been focusing on building parks of different sizes.
The Community Olympic Square, for instance, was built a few years ago. The Yuandadu Park, on the other hand, is a win-win infrastructure as it protects both the environment and an ancient site. Under State heritage protection, the foul smell emanating from the moat used to turn potential visitors away from what today is the Yuandadu Park. Now, thanks to water treatment and the huge number of trees that have been planted, the place is not only frequented by people like me, but also by swans and geese.
Beijing has more than 370 parks of different sizes and with different functions. That number, however, ranks behind Shenzhen, Chongqing, Wuhan, Kunming, and Shanghai. Shenzhen is a new city, only 40 years old, yet it tops the list with more than 1,200 parks, indicating the advantage of "drawing on blank paper".
According to reports, there are more than 20,000 parks in Chinese cities, providing each urban resident an average of 15 square meters of the green space. We should applaud the authorities for their vision and decision to build parks instead of skyscrapers in or close to the city centers.
Most of the Chinese cities have expanded in size over the past decades. But they have used a big percentage of the land in city centers to build parks, meaning the local governments have had to forgo billions of yuan in revenue which they could have earned by selling prime land to property developers.
Most of the new parks have been built in the suburbs by utilizing river banks, saline alkali land and transforming former garbage dumps into green spaces. I believe the biggest park in Beijing is either the Summer Palace or the Olympic Forest Park, both of which have jogging paths of more than 10 km. But after visiting a number of other parks which are new and not well known but are growing bigger, I now doubt whether my "top two" can keep their positions for long.
District governments seem to be engaged in a contest to build the largest and the most beautiful parks. As a result, the banks of the rivers that cut through the capital have been turned into wide green belts for jogging and camping.
Similar competitions are going in the other cities.
More parks in Beijing can make it more difficult for me to decide which one to go to for jogging and weekend outings. Should I complain? Maybe not.
The author is former deputy editor-in-chief of China Daily.