Shenzhen’s Urban Park System

Park systems and their place in cities

With fresh, clean airspaces, beautiful scenery and an overarching peaceful atmosphere, parks have always been a favourite getaway site. Shenzhen is consistently known for it’s abundance of green and natural environments, especially in regards to the public parks. As with any up-and-coming city, the government is constantly looking to improve the urban setting, and therefore devote a substation amount of energy to refining the local parks.

A brief history of Shenzhen’s park system

Zhongshan Park, one of Shenzhen’s first parks was built in 1925. Along with one other, the remainder of the city was committed more heavily towards agriculture and fishing, therefore found themselves deprived of recreational space. With this in mind, the implementation of public parks became a component of contemporary urban planning. As Shenzhen continued its development through the 1990s, there was conflict between the maintenance of the natural environment and the fast-growing urban establishments. Many of the hills, agricultural land and open space had been transformed into industrial districts. The government saw need for the coexistence of urban and natural space around the city, utilising the most of the space and leaving little between regions. In order to conserve this balance, there is a strict park system in the city, which includes zoning restrictions. In order to manage all of these public parks most efficiently, there is joint organisation of the parks by the city government and appointed urban/city planners.

Shenzhen’s Lian Hua Shan Gardens

Other than clear benefits for the surrounding environment and ecological systems, what truly makes the park system in Shenzhen special is the city’s goal of sustainability. Whilst many of the industrial cities in the nation have gained notoriety for being polluted and replacing their natural environments with skyscrapers and factories, Shenzhen keeps in mind effective measures to make a difference. As stated by WWF “Planning and zoning are often rigid and one dimensional, but Shenzhen has understood that good transit planning, integrated into the development concept of each area, has economic and social benefits.” Projects such as these parks are given specific areas to be used, all strategically oriented towards plans made by leaders to construct the most harmonious cityscape. Rather than completing leaving the natural and coastal areas unused and as are, they are better utilised to fulfil the leisure needs of citizens, as well as segregate areas that won’t be employed in industrial use.

Shenzhen Bay

Along the outer peninsula of Shenzhen, there runs a bay that separates Hong Kong from mainland China. Starting close to the Shekou Ferry Terminal, it follows the shoreline waterfront all the way into the city centre, and threads into Shenzhen Bay Park. Throughout the past few years it has undergone many changes and there is constant construction working to improve it. The closest part of the bay to the Ferry Terminal has not yet been joined to the rest of it, but has already seen a multitude of changes. However, you’ll be surprised to see that it is a surprisingly tranquil and quiet area. A small park sits inside the area, where locals come for evening walks, food carts serve snacks and families walk their dogs. Despite not being extravagant nor grand in scale, this park makes for a homely and relaxing resting place. Further along the bay, Shenzhen Bay Park awaits, and is a popular jogging, biking or strolling spot. I’ve been running here before, and it makes for an inviting and comfortable exercise location. The air is also usually fresh, the group is clean, and the layout of the park arranged unperturbedly. Being within the park makes the city feel wide and empty, and oftentimes I’ll forget that there is a highway of cars just minutes away. The contrast of the natural scenery against the neighbouring skyscrapers leaves a the impression of balance within the district, and equalises the industrial against the natural.

Futian segment of Shenzhen Bay Park at sunset

Nanshan Mountains

Another park that is frequented by many locals is Nanshan Mountains. Here lies a series of mountains that also granted the district it’s name ‘Nanshan.’ It is one of the only large green spaces left in the area, gracing locals’ gaze with it’s presence from miles away, and making it a favoured location. Entering the mountain, visitors are slowly taken from the bustling and loud street into a tree-sheltered, winding path towards a secret garden of nature. Once reaching the foot of the hiking trail, a stone ascent into the clouds begin, with almost a full hiking trail consisting of stone stairs. There are two mountain tops that can be reached via the path, with the second leading to another trial that can take visitors down a long winding path and back into the city. From as early as 4 am, there are usually people power walking along the path up to the hiking trail, or already at the top of the mountain. As someone who often visits this park, I can say that it is a wonderful way to immerse into the natural environment and also to get some exercise in. My favourite thing about Nanshan, other than it’s beautiful scenery and incomparable mountaintop views, is simply that it’s refreshing to see that so many people, whether it be the same faces or new ones, participate in keeping the location active everyday. There is a serene and soothing ambiance encasing the area, and the trees block out the tall buildings and cluster of infrastructure until you’ve feel you’ve reached a point that’s far far away from the noise of the city.

Final thoughts

It’s important that cities continue their industrial development whilst retaining a large proportion of nature and ecological environments. Personally, it’s the small and simple parks like this that contribute to the happiness of citizens. Even just by placing a small green area between two apartment complexes, or dedicating a grander space to recreational use, can massively boost the happiness index of the city. Furthermore, a city like Shenzhen has done excellently in terms of manufacturing a city that entwines the best of modern infrastructure as well as the foundational ecological environment. Shenzhen’s public spacing system encompasses a plethora of different parks, gardens and other recreational places. It’s not every city that can offer both a fast-paced urban lifestyle as well as natural surroundings so close to each other. From my own experience, and from what I can infer in seeing the sheer number of people that refuge in these locations, the city has done well in offering beautiful leisure space for it’s citizens.

References

Zhao, Juan. “Part IV: Public Open Space Between Appropriation and Marketing.” Maturing Megacities: The Pearl River Delta In Progressive Transformation. Place of Publication Not Identified: Springer, 2015. 289–97. Print.

“SHENZHEN | WWF URBAN SOLUTIONS.” WWF International. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Apr. 2017. <http://wwf.panda.org/what_we_do/footprint/one_planet_cities/shenzhen_us_2016/>.

Wikipedia contributors. “Nanshan Mountains (Shenzhen).” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 27 Mar. 2017. Web. 4 Apr. 2017.

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