Tonye left the shores of Nigeria in the early nineties in search of greener pastures in Gabon, another African country but returned to Port Harcourt last December to see relations whom he had lost contact with for a long times. He was excited by the new look of the city as he drove through the airport to the Borikiri axis, where he was to terminate his trip. Of particular interest to him was the Parks and Gardens dotted across the city, which gave him the impression that Port Harcourt has regained its garden city status and a tourist destination that can be compared with any city in the world.
He later took time to visit some of the Parks and Garden including the lovers Garden dotted with an imposing effigy that conjures a picture of a lady with a bare breast on Azikiwe road opposite the U.T.C. junction. The garden appeared to be deserted by fun seekers because the beautiful flowers are clogged with all kinds of junks. Tonye wondered what could be responsible for the obvious neglect that makes the lovers garden a shadow of its own.
This question is really one that has been bugging the minds of other residents in the city who think that this Garden that stretched up to the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) road junction should have been a beautiful Garden to behold in the eyes of those who enjoy recreation and fun seekers and relaxation spot for residents in the garden city.
Investigation showed that most of the Parks and Gardens are choked by over grown weeds and inhabited by reptiles due to lack of maintenance.
A tourist, Mr Theodore Iche, expressed dismay at the neglected lovers gardens, a site he said could have been equated with any recreational spot or a good relaxation spot in the world, if properly maintained. He advised those responsible for the Parks and Gardens to provide the necessary facilities that go with beautification gardens dotted all over the city of Port Harcourt. He said things like good parking space, restaurant and bar would have made the place tick.
“But the lack of recreational facilities, makes the Parks and Gardens a glorified flower garden”. An aide to the chair person of the Park and Gardens Committee in the state who corroborated with Theodore Iche’s argument explained that the mandate of the committee is to provide beautification garden and not a Park and Gardens, where people can go to relax, and there are many of such gardens located in various parts of the state capital”. The Mrs Chinasa Amadi-led Parks and Gardens Committee could not immediately disclose the number of Parks and Gardens available in Port Harcourt city, but said over 20 of them are supervised by the committee. Prominent among them are the Park and Gardens at Isaac Boro Park, the Peace Park along Aba road, investigation revealed, enjoyed full public patronage but lack recreational facilities.
According to Mr Godswill George, government’s effort at establishing Parks and Gardens in Port Harcourt is quite laudable but they should be made to meet world standard, which was the original intension of past administration that constructed them.
He posits that things such as public conveniences and adequate security are some of the things that should be in place near the recreational Parks and Gardens relaxation parks to make life more comfortable for (tourists and fun lover especially during Valentine festivities.
Mr George noted that the management of such Parks and Gardens if well organised, could generate revenue with maximum financial capacity to maintain the facilities and services provided, pointing out that it is not enough to build Parks that do not meet required standard.
“As for the gardens, efforts must be geared towards keeping them green at all times and the flowers properly trimmed to beautify the environment and well-watered flowers,” he stated.
Mr George observed that the garden along Azikiwe road has really improved the outlook of the entire stretch of land which before now had been lying fallow and overgrown with weeds.
He stated that the garden should be regularly maintained to improve its beauty and check the present situation where hoodlums occasionally invade and engage the garden for criminal activities and other social vices.
“Of particular mention he said, is the lovers garden adjudged to be the most beautiful sights to behold in Port Harcourt city”. The standing ebony black effigy with bare breast conjures up a picture of an African origin, he said. He argued that the present on-going construction near the lovers garden provides a potential danger to the standing stature.
However, despite the success recorded so far in creating an enabling environment for beautification schemes and recreational centres in the state capital, there is still room for improvement of existing facilities as agreed by Mr Emma Ogunu, who opined that another area under the purview of the Parks and Gardens Committee that has been neglected is the Zoo, Gardenwhich has been moribund over the past years and abandoned by succeeding administration of the state.
He wondered why such an important place which is capable of providing leisure and attraction to tourists should be left unattended to for a long time, and recalled the important role the Zoo had played in the past, when members of the public thronged the zoo garden to see various animals for their admiration.
Ogunu regrets that all that has become history as the entire area known as the Zoo had been overtaken by bush and part of the land converted for other purposes, noting that lack of maintenance of facilities at the site had left most of them rot away.
He frowned at the non-commitment of the authorities concerned to reactivate such an important entertainment facility which could have provided the much needed fun that the people yearn for.
Ogunu, however, expressed optimism that the present administration under Gov. Rotimi Amaechi who is most inclined to providing leisure and comfort for residents of the state should consider the reactivation of the Zoo in the state to complement existing infrastructure, which he has put in place to create relaxation for all those who visit and reside in the state.
According to him, the current effort of this administration in the state to attract tourists to the state will not be complete without ensuring an all round development of the beautification sector.
Mr Anthony Alabo, who corroborated with this fact, stressed the need for the government to ensure that all projects relating to the building of Parks and Gardens across the state are implemented to the letter.
“By this I mean that a Park Gardens should be seen to be truly as described with all relevant facilities provided vis-à-vis restaurant, public convenience, seats parking space and security to make a Parks and Gardens complete in the real sense of it”, he said.
Also the gardens should be well maintained by the regular trimming of the flowers to make them beautiful and attractive.