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This is the test case I have chosen to follow through with LCSD. One of the problems that came out of the workshop with Park Managers was the barriers to change. Even where people agree in principle with changes that were suggested by the public when it came down to the nitty-gritty of making changes happen it all fell apart. Whilst the recent plans from LCSD are encouraging in theory, we want to test out some example test cases. We want to find out what the barriers to change are with a particular example of restricted access to a public space. Is it the park manager, senior LCSD Management, the park designers, the by-laws, the District Council?
This example is from Ap Lei Chau Park (the old park not the new Waterfront Park). It's a really great space - an open multi-purpose grass space that could be used for ball games, childrens' play, picnics, whatever people want to do. It is clearly signposted in the park as a "Multi-purpose Lawn" (photo 7) and even has some nice seating and tables (photo 5) so that people can sit and have a chat. It's just the sort of free, open, grass area that is in such short supply in Hong Kong Parks except...... well, except that it is seemingly permanently fenced off and chained up so that nobody can use it. There's a sign on the locked gate (photos 2 & 3) saying that the space can be booked by the public but I've never seen it being used. Why should people have to book in advance to walk on a piece of multi-purpose grass? The sign also suggest that the space is designated for lawn bowls but this contradicts its description as a Multi-purpose Lawn on the park signage. In any case its not a particularly suitable space for such a purpose and there are already much better yet still under-utilised lawn bowls facilities in Victoria Park and elsewhere.
Its debatable whether the space needs to be bookable at all, but even if it is there certainly seems to be no reason why it shouldn't be open to the public when it hasn't been booked. It is public space after all.
I brought up the issue of this space at the last meeting with the LCSD and they agreed at first glance that there seemed to be no reason why the space should be locked up and fenced off. They agreed that there didn't seem to be any reason why the gates, and indeed the fences, couldn't be removed in order to open up the space for the public. We will be following up to see whether this can be achieved.
If you have a similar space in your local park, LCSD have said that they would like to hear about it so let me know and we'll follow it up for you.