Sat, Dec 28, 2002 - Page 16 News List

Making room for nature

It seemed like a good idea at the time, but a group of Taipei residents are starting to second-guess their decision to build an eco-friendly park in their borough


Although the park received the Urban Planning Landscape award (都市設計景觀大獎) from the Taipei City Government yesterday, a petition signed by more than 200 residents is being reviewed by the Bureau of Public Works' Department of Parks and Street Lights. At the award ceremony yesterday, Peng Shu-lan (彭舒藍), a resident of the apartment building next to the park who launched the petition, led a dozen neighbors in a protest at the city hall to voice their concerns.

"We would rather give the ecological park to other neighborhoods. This is not the right place for it. We have too little space," Peng said.

For the birds

Although they support the park, Authorities admit it is far from perfect. "There are a lot of problems. The ponds are muddy and the water is stagnant. What we can do is clean up the place regularly, although that does not address the root of the problem," Lin Shin (林信), chief of the parks department's Yuanshan precinct, said in reference to flaws in the construction.

Another point of controversy is the designer's plan to attract migratory birds to the park. "I have not see one migratory bird in the park, and neither have my neighbors," Wang Lin-lin (王玲玲), who lives in the 20-storey apartment complex next to the park, said. Wang wondered why residents had to give up their leafy trees and green meadow for the marsh and concrete pond.

"For migrating birds to stop by a place, it has to have a fairly large area where they can keep at a safe distance from humans. Second, there has to be an abundance of food," Wang Huei-mei (王惠美), who has been volunteering at the Wild Bird Federation Taiwan (野鳥學會) for the past 15 years, said. "In an urban environment it's not impossible, but quite improbable that migrating birds will stay. There's too much human activity."

According to Wang, even the ecological area at Ta-an Park, Taipei's largest, has only one migratory bird; most likely one that's lost its way.

Residents also complain that the park's artificial hill, valley and cliff have bad feng shui.

"The old park was much better, it was simple, flat and contiguous. My granddaughter used to play in the park, and my friend and I would sometimes walk through it. I don't see anyone doing that nowadays," said Mrs. Chiu, a 70-year-old who lives in an apartment facing the park.

"Ecological parks are a very high-level thing. They meant well. We know that, but we cannot use the park the way we want," Chiu's husband said.

"Parks are for children and the elderly to go to. That's what parks are for. We have no use for an ecological park. It does nothing for us, and it's not pretty either," Mrs. Chang, Chiu's neighbor, said.

The park does indeed look rather plain, as the usual flowers have been removed to make space for plants that attract wildlife.

"It all comes down to people's choices between providing a place for nature or reserving it for themselves. It's also a choice between the place's educational function and its recreational function," Guo Chung-ying(郭瓊瑩), chairwoman of the Chinese Institute of Landscape Architects (中國景觀學會), said.


Addressing resident's complaints, Guo said: "Now that it's an ecological park, residents need to be informed and educated so they can look at the park from a new angle. They cannot keep on thinking of it as the park they used to have. For example, weeds should be gotten rid of in a [normal] park, but they are an integral part of an ecological park," Guo said.

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