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Hong Kong environmental issues

Hongkongers want eco-lodges and adventure activities, but no big changes for country parks

HK$2.6 million study finds locals are looking for improved recreation options and facilities, but consider existing use of sites to be appropriate

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 April, 2018, 4:23pm
UPDATED : Friday, 13 April, 2018, 7:26pm

Treetop climbing, water sports, and more camping sites and eco-friendly accommodation are just a few of the items on Hongkongers’ wish lists for the city’s “green lung”, according to a government-commissioned survey.

However, the results of the year-long study – and a subsequent review by consultants with some country park committee members and stakeholders – found there was little appetite for major change, according to a public document released on Friday.

The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department spent HK$2.6 million (US$330,000) on the study to review how to boost the educational and recreational appeal of the city’s country parks.

“Workshop participants generally considered that the existing recreational uses in country parks such as hiking and camping were appropriate,” the working paper said. “While they did not have strong views on the preferred options, they expressed that any options proposed should not compromise the conservation objectives [of country parks and special areas].”

Such areas, which make up three-quarters of the city, are constantly under threat from the government and developers looking to convert small chunks of green land into housing developments in the face of Hong Kong’s acute land shortage.

Among the 2,000 people surveyed last year, the general public and country park users had similar views about what improvements they wanted in terms of overnight facilities, adventure activities, leisure and so-called ancillary facilities.

Both groups wanted wild camping sites, sites with rental equipment and more adventure facilities such as eco-lodges. Activities like grass sliding, water sports, orienteering and treetop climbing were also a top priority for users. Such facilities and activities are more common in countries like the United States, for example.

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Cheng Luk-ki, director of charity Green Power, was among a small group of stakeholders interviewed by consultants in the follow-up questionnaire study.

He brought up issues including the need for increased resources for the management and maintenance of country parks. He also raised concerns about the disturbance of wildlife and questioned whether the locations eventually selected for the proposed activities would even be suitable.

“The function of country parks does already include recreation, however, it is a matter of extent of usage and how appropriate the management of country parks is [when you consider improvements]. If you allow a certain degree of usage by the public, you have to have a corresponding input of management effort to maintain the value of country parks,” he said.

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Country and Marine Parks board member Ken So Kwok-yin, who is also from the Conservancy Association, said that the narrow range of answers given by users to the questionnaire suggested fairly outdated views about how country parks could be reinvigorated.

“[The study] may reflect short-term planning for how to improve the country parks, but it doesn’t address the long term, such as attracting overseas visitors,” he said.

After a review of the survey by consultants, feedback and a feasibility and viability assessment, a final shortlist of options will be presented for a public consultation in the second half of 2018.