A STITCH in time may save nine, but this seems to be an unfamiliar proverb to those tasked with the upkeep of our public parks.
From botanic gardens to recreation forests, it’s the same sorry story.
Broken benches, out-of-order toilets, damaged bollards, loose railings, broken barbecue pits, cracked pavements and roofless gazebos have become commonplace.
An optimistic way of looking at it would be to regard such shortcomings as part of the outdoor experience. Nothing as adventurous as a session in a toilet that cannot flush or to change clothes in a cubicle with no doors.
But logic tells you that such degrees of ruin, as seen by our crumbling park furniture, do not happen overnight. It takes time for a chip to turn into a crack, a cut into a rip and a bend to a break.
One example is the condition of facilities at Templer Forest Park in Rawang, Selangor. The park’s swimming pool is no longer a pool. The side walls have collapsed and so has the roof of the gazebo beside this pool.
Sensibly, the gazebo has been cordoned off with yellow tape due to the structure’s unstable condition. The slippery moss-ridden steps also pose a fall risk.
In reply, Selayang Municipal Council has pledged that it has set aside RM200,000 for upgrading works and has promised to resolve the issue by the end of this year.
The sight of this stricken gazebo brings to mind a similar case at the Sungai Congkak Park and Recreational Forest in Hulu Langat from 2018.
At that time, a visit by StarMetro found playground equipment covered with mould, and changing rooms and toilets with holes in their roofs caused by fallen tree branches.
The chalets, which were meant for holiday stays, had vegetation overgrowth covering their roofs.
The entrance steps were also broken and fungus dotted the walls. One family, who unwittingly forked out no less than RM100 per night for their stay at one of these chalets, complained about the condition on social media. The post went viral, prompting Tourism Selangor to close them down.
In 2019, StarMetro also found another case of poorly maintained park equipment at the Cyberjaya Lake Gardens.
The most heart-rending scene was at the children’s playground.
A bright yellow canopy that once gave shade to slides and swings was reduced to a bare metal frame.
Shreds of canopy material were seen on the playground floor.
In reply, Sepang Municipal Council (MPSepang) promised that upgrades and repairs of the rest of the facilities would be carried out in phases.
To start off, an inventory of the number of broken items would be done immediately.
According to a building and property services manager, it is not hard to nip problems in the bud, which can save managing bodies from having to fork out hefty repair bills.
The general rule for the upkeep of assets requires a qualified team, regular inspections and rectification.
“The first two act as preventive measures. To wait for an asset to deteriorate into a state of disrepair is a sign of inefficiency,” said this manager.
As park facilities are mostly exposed to the weather and the ravages of pests like termites and monkeys, it is highly advisable to consider the choice and grade of materials used for their construction very carefully.
They should be resistant to moisture, termite-proofed and be able to withstand heavy-duty usage in the face of high public traffic.
Before approvals are given for the purchase of all park items, consideration must also include budget allocation for spare parts and ongoing maintenance requirements.
Spare parts should be easily available at an affordable price.
Maintenance must be carried out by a qualified team, especially if it is being outsourced.
Meanwhile, the public too has a role to play.
To lovebirds who are prone to carving their names onto surfaces of built structures in a park, can you not use public property to declare your love?
To explain the extent of harm your carving can bring to the wooden structures, note that when there is a scratch on the shellac, water seeps in and this causes the wood to rot.
Your declaration of affection would have a longer lasting effect if you could write a love letter on perfumed paper instead.