The Telegraph
Friday , January 4 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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Destination GREEN

Head to the new Eco Tourism Park in New Town this new year. Built over a sprawling 480 acres and inaugurated by chief minister Mamata Banerjee on December 29, the park is big, beautiful and worth a visit.

Pretty as a picture

The park is on New Town’s Main Arterial Road, and if one is travelling from Salt Lake, is on the left hand side, shortly after the Rabindra Tirtha turning. While a car parking area has been built, it is at present a long walk from the entrance. So cars are conveniently parked along the service road outside the main gate, that is opposite the huge green Finance Centre building.

Entry to the park costs Rs 10 but by 4pm on Monday they had run out of tickets — but you still had to pay.

The first look of the park is breath-taking. You see lush green meadows and ahead of that a clear blue lake. Children frolic around you, senior citizens stroll and couples share ice cream from a cottage that sells Mother Dairy products.

The lawns are landscaped and have Marigolds, Salvias and Roses growing in clusters or along the boundaries. The pathway that guides you around the park is done up with bridges now and then and is lined with lamps of different heights. While there are those as high as streetlights, there are even cute little mushroom-shaped lamps.

Children run around the fountains and cartwheel on the hillocks, garden enthusiasts take tips from the resident gardeners and every other person is seen posing for photographs. Besides formal gardens there is a section cordoned off for a tropical rain forest growing small Semul trees and the like. While most of the plants are neatly labelled, some are misspelt, such as “Panjhee” for Pansy and “dessert” for desert.

There are numerous benches, each to match the setting. Some are even log-shaped. There is a tree-house like two-storied viewing gallery and an “artists’ cottage” overlooking the lake for them to put up at and paint.

The lake covers 200 acres of the park and visitors can take paddle-boat or shikara rides there.

At present there are two bio-toilets in the park but visitors were heard complaining that they are smelly. Also on the very first day of opening, visitors had managed to litter the park with packets of foodstuff. Park employees were seen working tirelessly, watering the plants, carrying dustbins to place at designated spots and telling visitors they would be fined if caught vandalising.

A leaf out of Tagore

To the extreme left of the park is Rabi Aranya, a section dedicated to the bard. There are murals of Tagore, a large sculpture of an open Gitanjali and phrases from his works related to nature inscribed all over. The plants in this section include Champa, Kadam and Neem, that find mention in his works and are labelled so. The pathway here is pebbled and some visitors were seen pocketing the pretty pebbles on the sly as souvenirs.

There are also circular-shaped “open classrooms” in the Santiniketan style and an amphitheatre. Given the size of the park, it was announced that golf carts and bicycles would be available on hire but they are not ready yet.

The park has been drawing visitors from near and far. “My family and I came here for a picnic. It’s picturesque. We might come again this winter,” said P. Prajapati from Kasba, as his children played badminton. While no one could deny the beauty of the park, those like Swapna Chowdhury, a visitor from Dhakuria, felt it was needless expenditure. “Millions must have been spent on this park. They could have spent the money on new roads, schools or hospitals,” said Chowdhury, a retired school teacher.

Future plans

At the inauguration ceremony the chief minister said that the park was her dream project. “I would notice the lake here on my way to the airport and long for it to be developed for tourism,” she smiled, mentioning a slew of add-ons that the park will get soon.

On December 29, Banerjee flagged off work on a Bangla Haat inside the park. This is a section that will house rural artisans selling tant, tangail, baluchari saris and other products that the state is known for. It will also have a miniature village to showcase baul culture. A Sculpture Haat will be built to house statues from around the state. The park will also get musical fountains.

The lake in the park has a two-acre island in the middle and Banerjee is keen to develop it to host international conferences. The park is also expected to have a butterfly park, children’s play area, food court and herbal garden. While promoting the site as a picnic spot, Banerjee said allowing food inside would create a mess. “Instead, we should develop 10 model villages in the vicinity that visitors can visit for their meals. This way the park will remain clean and the economy of the villages too would get a boost.”

The park is open from 11am to 5pm.