Few things are free in life, a walk in the park is usually one of them. Authorities, however, have now imposed a Rs5 entry fee at Cantonment Park in Abbottabad, much to the dismay of regular visitors.
“The decision by cantonment authorities to charge an entry fee is deplorable,” said Naeem Khan of Mohallah Malikpur. He added it was one of the government’s basic responsibilities to provide cost-free entertainment for the public.
Also known as Lady Garden, it was reopened for the public in the last week of Ramazan after it went through a facelift, including the installation of new fixtures and facilities for children. While that may have come as good news to regulars, the entrance fee did not.
Khan said now people can’t even go for a walk and be surrounded by greenery without having to pay for it.
Shahid Mehmood, a resident of Mohallah Karimpur, said he was once a daily visitor, but now cannot afford to pay Rs25 every time he goes to the park with his wife and three children. “I suffer from diabetes and used to go for my walk to Lady Garden, but this decision has deprived me of my basic right to enjoy fresh air.” Mehmood demanded Cantt authorities reverse their decision.
On the other hand, Dilshad Bibi from Kehal said if one could pay massive medical bills, parting with Rs5 to enjoy some fresh air, flowers, a play area for kids and a swimming pool seemed reasonable. She said the fee was necessary to maintain the park, which she said had suffered over the last few decades.
An official, requesting anonymity, said the Cantt Board spent millions on renovation and miscreants damaged the green belt, lights and other fixtures almost immediately.
He said this prompted authorities to deploy additional security and the Rs5 fee collected from visitors would be spent on paying the guards and covering other maintenance costs.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 12th,2014.