Joggers' paradise opens gate

Locks off 99-year-old park stuck in revamp

By Our Correspondent
  • Published 4.12.15

Hardinge Park, the oldest park in the city, has given joggers enough reason to rejoice - it has been opened to the public after three years.

The facility, officially named Shaheed Veer Kunwar Singh Azadi Park, was closed in October 2012 for redevelopment work under a Patna High Court directive of July 20, 2007.

Following several failed schemes at redevelopment, the 99-year-old park was finally opened for joggers on Wednesday. Members of the maintenance staff at the park said around 150 people came to the park when its gates opened on Wednesday morning. The number increased to around 175 on Thursday.

The environment and forests department, which was handed over the park in September, has developed a jogging track. It also undertook fresh plantation to infuse life in the Raj-era green arena.

Hardinge Park will remain open from 6-8 in the morning. Officials said the park would be opened for the whole day once the redevelopment work is complete. Visitors would, however, be required to pay entry fees of Rs 5 after that.

"We have developed the basic amenities for jogging and physical exercises at Hardinge Park in the morning. We are in the process of providing other facilities, including lamp posts, lights and security guards, following which the park would be kept open throughout the day and in the evening," said S.K. Singh, the regional chief conservator of forests, Patna.

The redevelopment project for Hardinge Park was taken up as a result of an ongoing lawsuit at the high court. The Hardinge Memorial Fund Trust had challenged an order issued by then Patna district magistrate on October 7, 2005 for claim on 20 acres of the park's land by the district administration. According to a deed of grant signed in September 1915, the Hardinge Memorial Fund Trust is the owner of the park's land. 

During the hearing of the case on July 20, 2007, the court directed the government to appoint an expert consultant and prepare a detailed scheme for the development of park in three months. Unfortunately, it has taken eight years for the park to reopen for jogging and health enthusiasts to visit with minimal development.

Choosing to overlook the sluggish progress on redevelopment, residents are upbeat about getting their park back.

"So many of us have childhood memories associated with Hardinge Park. It felt like walking down memory lane as I went for a stroll at the park this (Thursday) morning. It was a feeling of sheer joy," said Ashok Ghosh, a senior faculty member at AN College.

Ashwini Kumar, an official deputed at Hardinge Park, claimed that the development schemes have been formulated and funds of around Rs 3 crore will be used for it.

"We have planned to develop the park on the lines of Rajdhani Vatika or something even better. There would be an array of facilities at the park, including washroom, drinking water, open-air gym, fountains and pond," said Ashwini.

The Vatika, or Eco Park, is popular among residents because of its beautiful landscaping, modern artwork by Subodh Gupta and boating facilities, among others.

Sources in the environment and forests department said the pace of work has suffered because of the delay in transfer of funds by the urban development and housing department. "Consent from Patna Municipal Corporation is required for transfer of funds for further development work at Hardinge Park but the civic body has kept the matter pending in spite of repeated missives from us," said a senior official in the department.

"Hardinge Road cuts through the park. Though the urban development and housing department has come up with several ambitious plans for developing it over the past eight years, nothing has been executed quite successfully. While the northern flank of the park, now opened for joggers, has seen some work, the other half towards the south of the road (abutting Patna Junction) could never be carried out as it is filled with garbage and debris," said Jagdeo Path resident Shailendra Dixit.