an [Should Urban Parks Charge an Entrance Fee?]

发布时间:2020-03-26 来源: 短文摘抄 点击:

  The municipal government of Beijing decided to add 12 parks and six museums to the list of free public facilities as of July 1. The revenue loss from the new policy will be covered by municipal and district governments to ensure regular operation and maintenance of the facilities.
  There are 169 parks registered with the urban authorities in Beijing, of which 108 provide free entry. Most of the 108 free parks are by-street parks such as Dongdan Park, while the majority of the newly added 12 parks are integrated ones with complete facilities such as Zizhuyuan (Purple Bamboo) Park and Yuyuantan Park.
  The change was initially greeted with enthusiasm, but more people are beginning to have second thoughts about the policy.
  The number of visitors to the free parks has reportedly doubled; many of the parks have become home to vagrants and migrant workers; the parks are overcrowded with street vendors and leaflet distributors, and many nearby residents walk their dogs there. Parks are becoming overcrowded and losing their quiet and peaceful ambiance.
  The question of whether to charge an entrance fee or not has been a source of controversy for a long time. Supporters claim that parks are public establishments that have been created with taxpayers" money and thus should be free, just as in many other countries. Opponents maintain that, considering China’s large population and lack of a sense of civic duty, once the parks are free of charge they will not be properly managed and will inevitably be damaged.
  
  Parks are meant to be free
  
  Wu Zuolai (contributor to The Beijing News): City parks are places offering citizens leisure time, but they are not private gardens. Citizens are entitled to reclaim the commercialized city parks and enjoy the free natural and cultural resources there.
  The land on which parks are created is public leisure space that should be a common holding. To set aside some public space is part of the city civilization. It serves citizens in various ways: satisfying city people’s need to be close to nature, offering them leisure and health, providing places to hold various activities to enrich citizens’ lives, improving the city’s ecology and sheltering people in case of a disaster. If parks were handed over to companies and were used to generate profits, they would lose their essence and nature of being something public. Not long ago, Beijing Vice Mayor Zhang Mao said all non-world heritage listed parks should be free.
  Parks in the city are places that should be loved and appreciated, instead of being worried about. Once, a Chinese student who studied in the United States told a story about how the parks welcomed and sheltered him when he first came to the new land, suffering from culture shock, jobless and depressed. He would spend time alone in the parks, where pigeons, squirrels and children contributed to a peaceful and harmonious scene, which helped calm him down and dispel his anxiety. Parks, just like a mother, had accepted the outsider even before the people had.
  Parks are to a city what a business card is to a person. A city park in Vienna has free Johann Strauss music concerts from April to October every year. The Johann Strauss statue in this park was copied in 1999 and placed at the Kunming International Horticultural Exposition in China. Therefore, the park culture can raise a city’s image as well as benefit its citizens.
  As city people increasingly care about leisure, and as the aging population expands, city parks are becoming more important. In other words, they are daily necessities to promote the quality of living.
  Li Xiaolin (member of the Beijing Municipal Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference): China’s commonweal and social welfare have made remarkable progress since its reform and opening up. But the market-oriented reform of the parks has bred some problems, the most serious one being that the rising admission fees have drastically exceeded the growth in people’s incomes. That is to say, parks are not affordable for average people any more.
  Take Beihai Park for example. The ticket was 0.05 yuan back in the 1960s, but now one is charged 10 yuan to enter the gate and another 10 yuan to climb the hills in the park. This is almost 400 times more expensive than in the 1960s, while the income level is only 40 times as high as that in the 1960s. Many citizens stay away from the parks as parks are too expensive for them to visit.
  Parks and scenic spots that belong to all the people of the country should be exempt from an entrance fee. But people can be charged to visit some of the parks that are of high historical value and need to be protected.
  Free entry to parks can be realized gradually as it needs financial support. Thus it should proceed with economic development. For example, people can visit parks for free but if they want to get access to some amusement facilities inside these parks, they have to pay a little money for that.
  Li Li (university student majoring in tourism in Beijing): However low the entrance fee is, it keeps many citizens away from parks. It surely is a pity that people miss a chance to relish the cultural glamour because of the tickets. But viewed from another perspective, the present low charges can barely meet the maintenance costs of the parks, so parks need financing from other channels to sustain operation.
  Zhang Xiaowen (Beijing resident): Parks are supposed to be places where people have leisure and entertainment. Exempting the entrance fee is just like dismantling a hurdle in people’s hearts. I live close to a park and every day I do morning exercises in the park, climbing mountains and breathing the fresh air. It’s so relaxing!
  
  Free parks may bring problems
  
  Zhuan Tou (Beijing resident): I don’t think it’s time to open parks for free as such an action will lead to the following consequences: Once parks are free of charge, visitors will flock in and inevitably parks will be overused. Parks’ bearing capacity is limited, and if they are overused, it does no good to either parks or visitors.
  Another result will be that the expenses of the parks, including workers’ salaries and welfare, will be covered by taxes, which are paid by taxpayers. So on the surface we are benefiting from the free parks but after all we will pay for it.
  Security is another serious issue. When parks become free, it is hard to control visitors to the parks, which may lead to a rising possibility of accidental injury to visitors. For example, a Lantern Festival celebration in 2004 in Mihong Park outside Miyun County, Beijing, turned into a disaster when the crowd swamped a narrow bridge. It was a bloody lesson.
  Once parks are free, their service quality will be lowered. Parks are social welfare establishments, so workers there won’t feel the pressure of competition, and they will lack the incentive mechanism, so how can we expect them to provide us with first-class service?
  Wu Ming (expert with the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Parks): Many parks in Beijing have already become free, and the present charge basically reflects what citizens can afford. That is to say, what people are complaining about is not all parks but those famous parks that are of high historical and cultural value.
  During holidays, the Summer Palace and Beijing Zoo have 100,000 visitors just on one day. Both security and service are hard to guarantee. Though visitors complain about the onerous charges, the park administrators feel hard pressed to explain that without the charges to keep the facilities from being overwhelmed, these fragile relics would be damaged.
  Parks are divided into five categories: integrated parks, community parks, special parks, belt-shaped parks and by-street parks. It’s not proper to charge citizens for the community parks, belt-shaped parks and by-street parks, but for the other two kinds of parks, the number of visitors must be limited, and an entrance fee is an effective way in this regard.
  
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  Editor: Zhang Zhiping

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