Waterfront parks come under fire

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 March, 2009, 12:00am

Users of the city's waterfront parks are frustrated by the lack of harbour views, food and drinks, and shade, a study has shown.

Respondents to the survey, commissioned by concern group Designing Hong Kong, pointed to design shortcomings that left visitors sitting with their backs to the harbour or having the view blocked by obstacles such as breakwaters and steel bars.

'How can you keep visitors at the waterfront without food and comfortable seating?' group founding member Paul Zimmerman asked in commenting on the study, which looked at all 48 waterfront sites managed by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department. 'The study has provided us evidence ... I hope the department will take action to improve the waterfront designs.'

Researchers observed waterfront parks, sitting-out areas and promenades managed by the department in January and February this year.

The researchers, students of Worcester Polytechnic Institute in the United States, also gauged public views on the parks' designs by interviewing users.

They found that not every site provides visitors with a harbour view despite being close to the waterfront.

In a sitting-out area at the Lei Yue Mun Typhoon Shelter, visitors on benches provided by the department cannot appreciate the sea view because the benches are under a massive concrete breakwater.

A promenade in North Point fences people off from the harbour with steel bars for safety reasons.

While about 70 per cent of the sites offer a sea view, a similar proportion offer no food or drink. Although most sites had at least one form of public transport within 400 metres, only a fifth had signs to direct users to them from the transport stops.

In North Point, a small park hidden behind the headquarters of the Independent Commission Against Corruption can only be discovered by visitors curious enough to walk through a narrow path next to the headquarters. There are no signs until they reach the park.

The study also noted that few parks are connected with promenades or other sites along the waterfront. One example is Tsuen Wan Riviera Park, in which a gate was installed to stop visitors from entering the promenade connected to the park.

A common complaint by interviewees was the lack of shaded seating. Photographs taken by researchers as part of their observations show people resting on benches had brought umbrellas to provide shade from strong sun. The photographs also show the stark contrast of the empty waterfront and the crowded inner city.

Mr Zimmerman urged the government to give more funding and resources to the department for improving the quality of the waterfront, saying open space was increasingly in demand due to the needs of the ageing population.

The study commended the design of one park. It gave Hoi Sham Park in Kowloon City high scores for accessibility, connectivity, facilities and design quality.

Results of the study were submitted to the department last month and presented to the Harbourfront Enhancement Committee early this month.

A spokeswoman for the Leisure and Cultural Services Department said the findings were useful and they would consider the feasibility of the study's recommendations.

Down by the sea

Examples of the problems at waterfront areas managed by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department

Against the wall
A concrete wall blocks the sea view from the Lei Yue Mun Typhoon Shelter sitting-out area

Seating is provided next to the Kwun Tong waterfront at the Hoi Bun Road sitting-out area, but does not face the sea

Seeking shade
No shaded seating is provided at Tsuen Wan Park, forcing people to bring umbrellas

Locked out
The North Point promenade is fenced off

Buried treasure
A narrow pathway leads to a hidden park behind the ICAC Headquarters in North Point, but there is no signage