Chetpet Eco Park: An oasis of green for fitness enthusiasts

Nestled amidst bustling traffic, the Chetpet Eco Park is ideal for fitness enthusiasts and those looking for a spot of recreation

October 11, 2017 07:16 pm | Updated November 06, 2017 03:13 pm IST

CHENNAI, TAMIL NADU, 24/04/2017: A view of Chetpet lake in Chennai. 
Photo: B. Jothi Ramalingam

CHENNAI, TAMIL NADU, 24/04/2017: A view of Chetpet lake in Chennai. Photo: B. Jothi Ramalingam

A paddling of ducks waddles across the walking path, emitting a series of loud quacks. Walkers dodge the birds and continue walking, their gazes fixed steadily on the trail beyond. Statues of animals gaze somewhat eerily at all this: a land-locked turtle, a sulky pelican, a fierce shark and a jewel-eyed frog.

Benches line the park and a few walkers have already collapsed on them, exercising their core, resting or socialising. A few stray kittens gambol under the benches in a gazebo of sorts, at the entrance, that faces the Chetpet Lake.

Swatches of green can be found all over — a deer peers from beneath dense foliage on the wall of the parking lot; green grass and trees border the walkway; creepers curtain the wall cocooning the park and its inhabitants from traffic and pollution; a tree curves across a small islet in the very centre of the water. A swathe of sunlight cuts across, turning the lake into a molten vibrionic mass and leaving behind flecks of gold on the grey concrete walkway.

Green attraction

I am at the Chetpet Eco Park, which as the name suggests, is an ecologically-themed park, spread across the banks of the lake. Created and maintained by the Fisheries Department, the 16-acre large park, inaugurated by late Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa in February 2016, is located in the heart of the city making it a highly accessible place for the city’s inhabitants. And they certainly are making full use of it.

It is fairly early in the morning when I arrive, 10 minutes past six, but the park is already filled with early morning walkers getting their daily dose of Vitamin D and endorphins. “We open at 4.30 am daily,” says a security guard, who prefers not to be named. Flipping open a register, he points to the long list of regular walkers recorded in it, and adds, “Look we have over 5,000 people walking here,” he says.

Chanchal Jain is one of them. “I have been coming here for a year,” he says. He usually comes at 6 am and takes four rounds around the 1.2 km long walkway every morning, he adds.

“I love the environment,” says Archanaa Gnanaprakasam, another regular. “It is so serene and peaceful,” she says.

Looking back

A couple of years ago the lake, like most water bodies in the city, was a scummy algae-laden one topped with garbage and debris. Newspaper reports state that the idea of beautification of the lake started way back in 2000, but took real shape much later when the Government sanctioned a sum of ₹42 crore for the project. This was supposed to go towards the rejuvenation of the water body, development of the restaurant, construction of a joggers’ track, a park for children and multi-level parking.

The plan has been a success, by most accounts. There is enough parking, the water is clear and pristine and people throng here everyday. “Besides the walkers we also have a 3-D show, boating, fishing and a park for children,” explains the security guard, adding that the park is open for visitors till 8.30 every night, save Tuesdays.

At dawn, however, the long line of boats are clustered at the jetty, bobbing merrily on the surface of the lake, colourful and empty. The park, that is home to a variety of fresh-water fish such as rohu, cutla and pangasius, allows visitor to indulge in a spot of fishing. Anglers can rent equipment and even take home their catch.

“I went boating there last year in December,” says Gnanaprakasam. It was close to New Year and fireworks lit the sky, streaking it with multiple hues making it, “an unforgettable experience,” she remembers.

Entry is charged as are the activities. It costs ₹25 for adults and ₹10 for children with additional costs for boating and angling. If a regular walker, you can opt for a yearly (₹2,000), monthly ₹200) or bi-yearly (₹1,000) pass. Boating for half an hour will set you back by ₹50 while angling will cost you around ₹300, more if you want to take your catch home.

But the experience is worth it, believes Jain. “I really like the park. The space is very clean and calming. Besides, there is nothing else in the city like this,” he smiles.

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