Pocket parks buffer city stress

By ZHANG XIAOMIN in Dalian, Liaoning and ZHANG YU in Shijiazhuang | China Daily | Updated: 2022-12-05 08:19
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Bubbles attract a child's attention at a pocket park in Chengde, Hebei province. WANG LIQUN/XINHUA

Numerous small green spaces emerging in urban areas nationwide

Pocket parks, which typically cover an area of 400 to 10,000 square meters, are springing up in Chinese cities.

In September, a neglected garden in Dalian, Liaoning province, was transformed into a 1,280-square-meter mini park.

Chen Ming, 65, who lives in one of two six-story residential buildings next to the park, located in Huayuan Lane, Xigang district, said: "This park is now a wonderful place for recreation. It's hard to imagine it was once covered in grass and weeds, where rundown flower beds were used by some people to grow vegetables."

The new leisure area is extremely popular with local residents, Chen said.

Students run and play in the park after school, middle-aged and elderly residents dance and exercise there in the evening, and people heading for walks in the nearby hills take short breaks on the park's wooden benches.

Chen, who has lived in the area for 42 years, said: "I also like walking in the hills, which are known for their wild sika deer. As the environment has improved, animals that disappeared have returned in recent years, and I've seen rabbits, pheasants and badgers in the area.

"It is great to have this beautiful mini park right on our doorstep, and it is particularly convenient for the elderly."

The transformation of the area was based on its original topography, with apricot, cherry and pine trees being planted by residents.

While locals were consulted on the design, Chen suggested placing handrails next to steps in the park to assist the elderly. He is pleased to see the handrails every time he passes by.

The park was completed within one month, and the work involved tidying up the land, replanting, and installing a porch, benches and other facilities.

Ma Yanxia, deputy head of the Shidaojie residential community, said: "Everyone living here wants a more beautiful environment and a more convenient place for leisure activities. Many residents have asked us to turn public spaces near their buildings into pocket parks, but I don't think we can afford this now."

In recent years, the northeastern port city of Dalian has worked to introduce more green zones by cleverly using vacant neighborhood spaces to provide residents with "natural gardens" for walking, admiring the scenery, and generally relaxing.

This year, 112 pocket parks are expected to be constructed locally, according to the Dalian City Administration Bureau. These parks will be scattered throughout the city — next to office buildings, at the end of roads, or in residential neighborhoods. They provide places of quiet refuge to escape busy city life.

Ding Ning, an official at the bureau's greening department, said designing and constructing Dalian's pocket parks calls for outstanding features, ecological priority and excellence, and a commitment to maximizing green coverage and making best use of even the smallest area.

The mini parks, which used to be vacant or abandoned areas, have been fitted with benches, seats, lighting, fitness and entertainment equipment, sun and rain shelters, and toilets.

Ding said, "We also consider the needs of children, the elderly and the disabled, and try to install some barrier-free and children's amusement facilities."

When it comes to greening, priority is given to indigenous plants. Based on the original plant varieties, replanting work involves using a reasonable amount of shrubs and bulbous plants to provide a landscape offering good views in all seasons.

In accordance with national, provincial and municipal policies, pocket park construction in Dalian is organized by the city's administration bureau and carried out by government institutes in districts and counties, Ding said.

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