The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Footfall facelift for Eden

How many of us have been to Eden Gardens stadium' How many of us have been to Eden Gardens park'

The footfall fissure, one safely assumes, would appear wider than the 15 acres occupied by the Eden Gardens park adjacent to the stadium.

To address this great divide and to get a substantial number of Calcuttans to start talking about — and then stepping into — the park, the government is poised to give the greens a makeover that matters (see graphic).

“Consider the number of people interested in visiting Victoria Memorial or even the recently-built Nalban or Millennium Park. In comparison, the garden has faded from public memory, possibly due to our failure in popularising it. We want to change that for good,” said Somenath Mukherjee, deputy conservator of forests of the state forest department’s urban and recreational forestry division.

The park, built in 1836 by Emily and Fanny Eden, sisters of then Viceroy Lord Auckland, hardly finds any takers today, but the forestry division has a grand plan to get it “teeming with people”.

The park at present has two rose gardens, three nurseries, a cactus house, a lake for boating and angling, a children’s enclosure, a bandstand and, of course, the Burmese Pagoda, enjoying pride of place since 1854.

First up, the forest department hopes to introduce an entry fee — Rs 2 for children and Rs 5 for adults. “This is primarily to keep out the unwanted elements. Those avoiding the park due to the perception that it’s unsafe will know we are taking the responsibility to keep it secure when we charge an entry fee,” feels Mukherjee.

Next up, the government is toying with the idea of introducing a toy train. “We have already started drawing up plans as a major attraction for children, since there are no toy trains in the city proper,” explained Mukherjee.

Then, a full cultural calendar is being drawn up to keep the bandstand busy and the address abuzz.

Rounding off plans for the park with a new look and feel are food stalls and an annual flower show.

But before all that, the place must be illuminated better.

“Once the lighting improves, the place can be kept open till 8 pm, instead of 6 pm,” pointed out Mukherjee.

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