Shanghai residents have made special visits to Shanghai Peace Park in recent days to bid adieu to the more than 30 kinds of animals living on the park's animal island, which the park plans to close for reconstruction on Dec 30.
The park, which was built in 1958, has become part of many locals' childhood memories as it was the only park in downtown Shanghai that raised animals including lions, tigers, monkeys and sika deer.
That will be no longer be the case after the 18-hectare park's reconstruction is completed by April 2022, as all the animals will be relocated and the park's facilities and environment improved, park management said on Wednesday.
"The lack of landscape features, outdated facilities, and the urgent need to improve the water quality and environment are the reasons for us to reconstruct the park," said Huang Ling, head engineer of the Hongkou District Landscaping Management Center.
"As for the relocation of the animals, we consider it imperative as the current feeding model for the animals living in the park has brought concerns of environmental protection, epidemic prevention and animal welfare."
For example, she said, the feces of some animals such as sika deer have been one of the major pollutants of the water in the park.
"The design of the animal island is also not very visitor friendly," she added.
According to the reconstruction plan, the animal island will be transformed into an ecological island featuring the traditional style of horticultural design in the region.
"The park will feature some animal sculptures reminiscent of people's childhood memories," Huang said.
The site where the animals will be relocated is still being discussed, she said.
In addition to the reconstruction of the animal island, renewal of infrastructure such as the main road, the upgrading of entertainment facilities, the addition of a basketball court and other sports venues, and the improvement of water quality of the park's lake, will also be key focuses of the renovation, said Wang Xuan, director of the park.
As a national AAA tourist scenic spot, the park was built to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China and to allow future generations to remember history and love peace. It is located in Hongkou district, which served as a haven for Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis during World War II.
Wang said that an average 20,000 people visit the park each day, most of them local residents.
"Although the animal island will be no more, I believe the renovated park will be more attractive and provide a better experience for visitors," Wang said.
Chen Shufen, 70, who lives a kilometer from the park, said it's hard to see the park closed for reconstruction, but she believes the effort will be worthwhile.
"I have been visiting the park since I was 7 years old," she said. "Many people like me come to the park every day to relax and talk to each other. We all have a deep affection for the park."
Lu Weihong, director of the Landscape Engineering Design Institute at Tongji Architectural Design, said they plan to reconstruct the park as an organic part of the city, bearing New York's Central Park in mind.
"The park's reconstruction, which will be both challenging and innovative, is an epitome of the city's dedication to building itself into a park city," Lu said.
According to the municipal government's park management authority, there were 352 urban parks, seven country parks and four national forest parks in Shanghai as of August. By the end of this year, the total number of parks in Shanghai will exceed 400, which is closer to its vision of becoming "a city in the park", the municipal government said.