Creating Great Public Spaces: Massive Parks Development to Transform Quezon City into a Garden City
The Garden of Eden it is not, but Quezon City is being transformed into a Garden City by the Quezon City Government’s Parks Development and Administration Department (PDAD). When PDAD was created in 1990, open space development became its foremost concern. Among the problems it had to address were the uncontrolled encroachment of informal settlers and the mushrooming of establishments in designated open spaces for parks and playgrounds. It also had to contend with the illegal re-classification of open spaces into residential areas.
The PDAD pursued a program that aimed to develop open spaces and historical sites, upgrade and maintain existing parks, prevent and remove informal settlers, and ensure public safety, cleanliness and neatness. More importantly, the program encouraged the participation of the private sector, NGOs, POs and concerned citizens in parks development and maintenance.
The barangay councils, homeowners and the city government signed Memoranda of Agreement to work together in keeping the parks alive and well maintained. Constant dialogues and discussions were held with the barangays and homeowners associations regarding the development of the park within their area. Their banner cry was Upgrade, Upkeep and Transform. This meant putting the city’s basic system in order, removing the blight that defaced the cityscape and significantly improving the cityscape and city life.
In 2000, or before the program started, there were 553 identified open spaces all over the city, 132 were developed and 421 were undeveloped. The massive parks development program by the incumbent administration started in 2003 and continues to this day. During that period, 111 more parks were developed as Serbisyong Bayan or “SB” parks. There is practically one park in every community cluster. The 142 barangays, which are the direct beneficiaries of these parks, are the city’s partners in the upkeep and maintenance of these parks. The parks that underwent major makeovers were the La Mesa Eco Park in 2003, the C.P. Garcia Park in 2004, North Olympus Park in 2007, and the Tandang Sora Shrine in 2008.
Before its development into a park, the CP Garcia Park was occupied by informal settlers and was also used as a site for various business concerns such as canteens, auto repair shops and junk shops. It was also utilized as a parking area and dumping site of assorted debris. In 2003, a joint resolution filed by three barangays (UP Campus, Teachers Village-East and Krus na Ligas) requested the City Government to appropriate funds for the development of the lot into a mini park and playground. Today, the CP Garcia Park is frequented by thousands of promenaders and students from the nearby schools and communities.
The old site of the Tandang Sora Shrine was located about 46 meters from Banlat Road surrounded by the shanties of informal settlers. On November 24, 2005, the Quezon City Council approved an Ordinance “authorizing the City Mayor to expropriate a parcel of land situated alongside Banlat Road, Quezon City with an area of 550 sq. m. for the purpose of erecting the new Tandang Sora Shrine.” The transfer and development of the Tandang Sora Shrine was coordinated with the National Historical Institute, Kaanak ng mga Bayaning Pilipino Foundation, and the heirs of The park is now truly a fine tribute to one of the country’s national heroes.
The La Mesa Eco Park is considered as one of the oldest parks in Quezon City situated in the heart of the La Mesa Dam Watershed which sprawls over 2,700 hectares in Novaliches, Quezon City. A biodiversity assessment made by various rare species of plants and animals thrived in this cool, forested area. Developing the park would help in the conservation of these species.
Together with the ABS-CBN Foundation and the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), the Quezon City government restored the 33- hectare area into an ecological resort. This tree-lined paradise is now one of the natural jewels of Quezon City, a place where the public can commune with nature, take a refreshing swim or go for a relaxing boat ride.
The parks provide intrinsic, environmental, aesthetic, and recreation benefits to Quezon City. They are also a source of positive economic benefits and a good financial investment. They enhance property values, increase the city revenue, bring in homebuyers and workers, and attract retirees. Massive parks development also answered the clamor for breathing space in the city. The refurbished parks contributed to urban renewal and brought a sense of calm in the midst of the stressful concrete jungle.
The pro-active participation of other government entities, the private sector, NGOs and concerned community and church leaders in various aspects of parks development, from improvement to maintenance and management, has become a unique and useful approach in local governance. This has allowed the city government to maximize devolution and decentralization and to ensure the program’s sustainability. Visitor traffic in La Mesa Eco Park for this year alone is expected to hit the 400,000 mark or roughly 1.5 million “eco-tourists” since 2005. Gate receipts and school package tours have also become contributing factors in sustaining the La Mesa Eco Park’s undertakings.
Since the LGU has an annual appropriation for various parks’ repair and maintenance program, there is an assurance that the park amenities and facilities are properly maintained for public use while incidents associated with dilapidated and ill-maintained facilities are prevented. To spread the benefits of beautiful landscapes throughout the city, the Quezon City government empowers barangays to develop a people’s park in their communities, in a cost sharing arrangement. The return on investments comes in the form of increased property values, improved well-being of constituents, better peace and order, and a better image for the city.