Cities

A park where you pay and relax

A facility maintained by the Cantonment Board, it enjoys great patronage from residents of Pallavaram and surrounding areas

It’s 4.30 p.m. and under the glowering sun, I feel like a sea creature left to languish in a desert. The blare of horns rends the air. The scene before me is inviting, and promises me respite from the sun and the loud traffic on GST Road.

On Cattle Shandy Road in Pallavaram, I stand in front of Cantonment Park — strikingly sylvan, equipped with state-of-the-art facilities and its services come for a fee, and that’s fair enough.

There are others waiting along with me for its gates to open. One of them is A. Aqsa, who has arrived with her son in tow. When the gates swing open, her son dashes to the skating rink with his kit, and begins to wait impatiently for his team-mates to arrive.

Aqsa then takes a stroll around the park and after a couple of rounds settles down on a seat near the skating rink, watching her son wheel around. Soon, her friends join her. “I can’t wait for 4.30 p.m. every day. This park is our only refuge from the scorching sun. It is the best place for children to spend their summer holidays as this is the only green space in our neighbourhood,” she says.

The park, spread over two acres, used to be a cattle shandy until March 2017. Today, it’s the neighbourhood’s stress buster. The facilities it offers include a skating rink, an amphitheatre, a water fountain, an outdoor gym, a children’s play area, and a 2000-metre walking-jogging track.

The park is characterised by incredible cleanliness. There’s no trash to be found anywhere and the visitors too ensure that waste goes into the bins. The hedges are trimmed to perfection. The plants along the sides of the walking tracks are well-nurtured. The public toilets in the two corners of the park are spic-and-span.

At the play area, children are running around playing catch, and waiting for their turn to swing and see-saw and slope down the slide. The excitement is quite evident on their faces.

At the rink, a group of children are zipping past each other on their skates. The skating lessons are private and paid. “Two trainers coach the children in the evenings. The trainers pay an amount to the St. Thomas Mount-cum-Pallavaram Cantonment Board to use the space,” says Wilson Babu, the park supervisor.

The indoor shuttle court is under construction and is expected to be completed in two or three weeks. For now, the Cantonment Board has not decided on charging a fee to use the shuttle court,” says Peter Durairaj, health superintendent of the Cantonment Board and park in-charge.

The Cantonment Park is also a model of sustainability, for it converts its food waste into renewable energy. The Cantonment Board has tied up with Hand-in-Hand, an NGO associated with the Board’s solid waste management project, which has set up a bio-gas unit with a capacity of 100 cubic metres. The energy is converted into electricity to power the lamps at the park, Wilson informs.

“We also buy all English and vernacular dailies in the mornings. Our visitors can read them for free. We want the park to spread positivity and happiness in the neighbourhood. A team of 16 people work dedicatedly to ensure that the park remains a happy place for everyone who visits,” adds Peter.

In the mornings, the park is open from 4.30 a.m. to 9 a.m. and reopens in the evening from 4.30 p.m. to 8.30 p.m. An entry fee of ₹5 is charged for each visitor. The park also offers a monthly pass for ₹100 which can be used by up to eight members of a family. It also offers a half-yearly pass at a discounted rate of ₹400.

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Printable version | Feb 21, 2020 4:30:25 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/a-park-where-you-pay-and-relax/article26954912.ece

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