By A. Jeyaraj
After reading Mariam Mokhtar’s article “Will Ipoh City Council Ever Learn?” (Ipoh Echo, Feb 1-15, 2017), I decided to visit People’s Park a.k.a Kinta Riverfront Park to see its condition. There is still no signboard of its official name.
About a year ago Mayor Dato’ Zamri Man carried out a landmark gotong royong at the park which went viral and was reported in all the media and the Mayor received more coverage than he expected. As remembrance of this event, he planted a tree saying that it would provide shade when it grows. However, the tree had died a natural death. What remains now is a patch of grass with two tiles placed in the centre. I saw the tiles only during my last visit.
After the gotong royong, Zamri said that MBI planned to return the park back to its original role, that of a family park. It is the People’s Park and is for the entire Ipoh community. Zamri added “We need to find ways to draw the residents back to the area. The city council plans to carry out activities in the park to attract more visitors. We want an entrance that welcomes visitors and we will place signboards to make passers-by aware of the park and guide them in. The paddling pool for children will be improved, including new lighting. We are starting anew and working very hard to upgrade the facilities.”
I visited the park four times, the last one just recently; thrice during the day and once at night. During my first visit on a Sunday morning, I noticed the place was littered with fallen leaves. There was hardly any plastic garbage lying around indicating that people are not visiting the place. More than half of the park is roped off. On the following Sunday I noticed that the leaves were cleared and the pools were cleaned. As usual men were sitting and lying down under the shelters. There was also a young couple. There were no genuine visitors.
A number of floor slabs had come off, causing a tripping hazard, and other structural damage. The buildings are starting to deteriorate but maintenance work has started. Plants are growing on one of the lamps at the top of the lamp pole along the river bund.
There is clear stagnant water in the basin of the fountains which is a breeding ground for mosquitoes. There are also other receptacles containing stagnant water.
During my last visit I saw styrofoam containers and plastic garbage lying at a corner near the river bund. There are signs that the garbage is being burnt. I am not sure who is doing this.
During the night when I was driving along Jalan Sultan Iskandar (Hugh Low Street) to go to the park, there were two motor cyclists in front of me and they entered the park. The place is dark and I could see men sitting and lying down under the shelters. There is a steel structure in front of the buildings in which fluorescent lights are installed, but they are not working. I was scared to enter and only looked from the road.
I do not know who are the people taking refuge under the shelters. I think the welfare department must reach out to these people and help them. Are they homeless, abandoned or drug addicts? These people scare visitors away.
One year after the historical gotong royong it looks like only the new entrance from Jalan Sultan Iskandar to the park has been completed and everything else is the same. The park hardly attracts any visitors.
I remember Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Deputy Prime Minister saying “Malaysians are good at initiating things, but do not follow through.” This is true for People’s Park.
Will the park be returned to its former glory?