Going to the country park is better than any entertainment, says Hong Kong father
Lo Wei and Olga Wong
It is a dilemma for every Hongkonger to ponder. As much as the people of the city love their country parks, they are also the victims of the high property prices that development chief Paul Chan Mo-po say can be tackled by increasing the housing supply by using these green havens.
"There should be other ways other than using country parks," said Patrick Chan, an accountant, who was enjoying a Sunday barbecue with his wife, mother and four-year-old daughter in Kam Shan Country Park.
Chan, 42, leases a 300 sq ft flat and the family has been on the waiting list for a public flat for more than a year. He is keen to see more public flats built, but objects to losing the parks. "They are a buffer zone and they're very important to me. Going to the country park with my family is better than any other entertainment activities," he said.
But Tony Chu, 55, an unemployed investment banker who enjoys hiking, was not completely against the idea of releasing the land for development.
"There are many subdivided flat dwellers living in very poor conditions," said Chu, who lives in a small flat in Sham Shui Po. "If this country park is gone, I could go hiking somewhere else."
As well as providing recreation for Hongkongers, the parks also bolster the city's image internationally - drawing tourists and making it more attractive for businesspeople.
"About 95 per cent of our walkers are from overseas, who were surprised at how much green the city has," said Gabi Baumgarner, who founded eco-tour firm Walk Hong Kong, in 2003. "Once they get to know it, they will come back for that."
She said the firm received two groups of secondary students from its traditional rival Singapore this year, because: "They don't have a proper hiking trail."