Room to rest and play
Imagine Hong Kong without parks and recreation areas. For all the fine buildings, shopping centres and the magnificence of the harbour, life here would be pretty near intolerable if we did not have the territory's trees, flowers and leisure facilities to enjoy.
Victoria Park may not be the loveliest recreation area in the territory, but its location means it is very widely used. Its sporting facilities and open spaces are a necessary relief from the pace and clamour of Causeway Bay.
Redevelopment plans have been talked about for a decade, not without controversy. Green groups were alarmed two years ago by a proposal to remove 1,341 square metres of land from the park and fell a number of trees. Then came a suggestion that an MTR expansion would put the park plans in mothballs.
The latest proposals put those fears to rest. The Urban Council has an ambitious scheme to provide the park with amenities in line with international standards. Upgrading the swimming pool to Olympic level and giving Causeway Bay Sports Ground a covered centre court for international tennis are most welcome. No land will be lost, no trees sacrificed.
The Council's impending $1 billion deficit in the next financial year should not delay work if the plans are approved since the Finance Department has indicated it will underwrite any shortfall for the next three years.
As the population increases and housing pressures grow, we must focus on improving the quality of life with such schemes. Recreational facilities and green spaces are as vital in their way as office blocks. A city which works as hard as this one, and lives in such crowded conditions, must have a counterbalance to the stress of urban living.