By Dons Eze, PhD
The recent conversion of the Forest Resserve adjacent to Michael Okpara Square at Independence Layout, Enugu, to a recreation park by the Government of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, has brought back fond memories of recreation and amusement parks that once existed in our Enugu Coal City.
This new recreation park, known as the “Unity Park”, with an artificial water pond, relaxation seats, artworks and a monumental roaring lion of about 30 feet high and 60 feet wide, still under construction, would unarguably, in no distant time, become tourists’ attraction, which would be drawing people from both far and wide to the Coal City.
We sincerely commend Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi for this very thoughtful and excellent work.
Once upon a time, in the late 1970s and the early 1980s, there used to be a man named Mr. Dhamija, an Indian. He was the General Manager of the then Anambra State Housing Development Corporation. He had set out to inject new life into Enugu Coal City.
Mr. Dhamija was a restless man. He was also an environmentalist. Apart from establishing a number of housing estates in various parts of the state, in particular, the Trans Ekulu Housing Estate in Enugu, he also sought to set up a number of recreation and amusement parks, with beautiful scenery and relaxation spots, in different parts of the Coal City, in addition to mapping out some open spaces in the area.
Among these recreation and amusement parks established by Mr. Dhamija, were the Polo Amusement Park, along Enugu-Abakaliki Road; the Ejindu Park, at Coal Camp; the Ngwo Park, at Uwani; the Osadebe Park, at Ogui New Layout; the Nnaji Park, at New Haven; and several others.
These recreation parks which brought new life to Enugu metropolis, had provided excellent relaxation spots for many residents of the city. Quite often, one would see individuals of all walks of life, and people of different age brackets, streaming into these amusement parks, either to enjoy themselves or to have some relaxation, after a hard day’s work.
These parks equally served as centres for various social gatherings in the Coal City, like political rallies, religious crusades, music festivals, funfares, eateries, sports and cultural extravaganza, etc. They had indeed made life more meaningful for many residents of Enugu.
In course of time, however, and in particular, with the departure of Mr. Dhamija, most of these amusement parks began to wear down, and the structures inside them began to degenerate or to deteriorate, due to lack of maintenance. The entire places became filthy and overgrown with weeds, as there were no hands to tend them.
In consequence, many people began to distance themselves or to withdraw from these parks, because they had become increasingly dangerous for normal human activities and social gatherings, having become habingers of various types of reptiles and some undesirable elements in society.
This provided excellent opportunity for land grabbers to cash in. The first casualty was the Polo Amusement Park along Enugu-Abakaliki Road, which was turned into a business centre, with the establishment of the Shoprite Shopping mall in the area. Similarly, if you go to Coal Camp, the Ejindu Park is totally gone, having been turned into a business area. The Osadebe Park at Ogui New Layout is also suffering the same fate.
Perhaps, some of our big businessmen are now anxiously eyeing the many other abandoned recreation parks in the Coal City, like the Ngwo Park at Uwani, the Nnaji Park at New Haven, the Murtala Muhammed Park near the New Market, etc., for purposes of building gigantic hotels or for establishing some housing estates.
If you walk through the length and breadth of Enugu Metropolis, you will be highly disappointed, tired. You will hardly see any green area – no vegetation, no place to relax, no place to cool off, no place to interact with nature, and no place to breathe in natural and fresh air.
Almost every place in the Coal City is completely dry, totally distanced from nature. We have hewn down all the trees and flowers in our amusement parks, and in our environment, and have thus become directly exposed to the rays of the sun. We now inhail fouled air, carbon monoxide. This is driving many people mad.
Even at our so-called Government Reservation Areas (GRAs), they have all been turned inside out, completely defaced – no trees, no flowers, no spacing, houses here and there. They are now seriously competing with many the high density areas, the jungle areas. No wonder why many people are falling sick by the day, becoming prey to all sorts of diseases. This is because we have abandoned nature, we live artificial lives, and eat artificial foods, etc.
We pray that the construction of the Unity Park by Governor Ugwuanyi at Independence Layout, will spur, or will be a wake up call for the Enugu Capital Development Authority (ECDA), or the State Ministry of Environment and Solid Mineral Resources, to begin to think of how to resuscitate, how to recover these moribund recreation parks that once existed in different parts of the Coal City, and even to establish new parks, so as to help restore Enugu to its glorious past, the Enugu Master Plan!