Readers of Citylife may recall our efforts last year in raising awareness over a parcel of land on Charoen Prathet Road which was slated to be developed by the Treasury Department into a 900 unit condominium which would have caused huge congestion in an already congested school area.
The good news is that the battle was won, the land was given to the city by the Treasury Department to turn into a park and it has just opened to the public!
On the 28th, I walked into the park, seeing a sea of people dressed in yellow shirts, which was the dress code. Looking around I saw only cheerfulness on people’s faces around me. Along the path, there were fun paintings along the wall, adding to the jolly feel of the day.
The public park was filled with a large crowd but yet was peaceful with an air of spirituality, as there were representatives from five religions that morning, sharing in the establishment of this community space. There were Buddhist monks, Islam imams, Christian priests, Brahman and Sikh leaders, all coming together in ceremony to pray for the gods and spirits to protect the space.
After finishing the ceremony, I strolled around the green park, my shoes stained with mud because of the rain the night before. We enjoyed some snacks, wrapped in organic leaves – no plastic here – and everyone brought their own canteens to fill with water provided. This is the value which I feel those who fought for this space wish to imbue into our society.
Each big tree in the park comes with its very own QR code to provide the public with information about that tree. There were also two telephone boxes, which looked incongruous, until closer inspection revealed them to be stacked with books and information pamphlets, following the park’s philosophy where everything in nature is a teachable moment.
On the stage, those who battled for the green space discussed the background history of how the place became Charoen Prathet Public Park. “Building this public park can increase the oxygen levels around Chiang Mai and can help us with our PM2.5 problems this coming April,” said Panda, a grade-4 girl, who took the microphone at one point. What was also charming was that everyone spoke in the lilting Northern language, adding a community feel to this charming day.
In the afternoon, the Chiang Mai governor and his team came to officially open the ceremony after which people milled around chatting, planting trees and painting walls.
As I was leaving, I was handed a sapling as a souvenir, and encouraged to plant it somewhere, which I will.
It was a day of great pride and joy. I shuddered at the thought that had it not been for Chiang Mai’s passionate activists, this space would now be treeless and under construction, adding to the congestion of the local community.
Breathing Space: How one abandoned piece of land has brought the city together