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JOURNAL OF RESEARCH IN NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT VOLUME 6 NO 2, DECEMBER, 2008

THE IMPERATIVE OF OPEN SPACES AND RECREATION PARKS IN THE MASTER PLAN OF A CITY

Arc Linus O. Asikogu and Ugochi A. Asikogu
 Faculty of Environmental Sciences, Imo State University, Owerri, Nigeria

Abstract
A masterplan is essentially a written statement of policy accompanied by diagrams, illustrations, descriptive matter, and general proposals in respect of the development and other use of land in an area. In urban centers a good proportion of land is allotted to open spaces from which recreation parks could be developed for leisure, physical exercises and socio-economic interactions, and at the end, environmental sustainability. However, a thorough and vivid observation of  city environment shows that the open spaces provided in the masterplan have been drastically encroached upon by overzealous land speculators and administrators. Hence, the environment left planless, without shape and form, leading to disorderliness lawlessness, pollutions, erection of temporary structures, building upon drainage lane, and utter neglect to the aesthetics of the city environment.
Keywords: Masterplan; environment; open spaces; land use


Introduction:
The concept of urban open spaces is indigenous to most African traditional cities. Their planning is structured on open spaces that are permeating the urban fabric serving numerous functions ranging from socio-cultural to religious, commercial and even agricultural purposes (Abdulkarim, 2004).
As asserted by Falade (1998) African indigenous settlers manage all kinds of public and private open spaces, ranging from the village greens, town squares, sacred gardens and squares, private yards to the royal gardens, good examples are the Ibo traditional architecture, characterized with the courtyard concept as in Figure 1.0.
 
An “open space” is either land not built upon, which many be either natural or man-made. It may also be land developed as    gardens and recreation grounds, or undeveloped and which have value for recreational purposes, amenity and for conservation purposes. It could also be land with historic or scenic landscapes or areas of outstanding natural beauty such as water areas, river valleys, hills, mountains, lakes oceans and bays.

It also includes anything from small fronts and back gardens in private residential houses, to the larger and more functional ones like school plays fields, recreation ground, race course,

golf courses, polo grounds, public parks, historical gardens.

The Town and Country Planning act of 1946 of Nigeria took cognizance of the part that open spaces play in the aesthetics and environmental health of a city and established planning authorities in all arts of the country. However, the Act has been replaced by Urban and Regional Planning decree No. 88 of 1992, which provides adequately for open space reservations and their developments well as the promotion of general amenities in Nigerian cities. The Act specifically empowers Planning Authorities to acquire land, if it is compulsory, for the reservation of land for open spaces, preservation of views and prospects and amenities of places and features of national beauty of interest.

Statement of the Problem
Most Nigerian cities show inadequate consideration or even total neglect for landscape and open space development in the preparation of land Use Plan. Where there is an

avowed intention of the plan to provide one, the strategy for plan implementation have not been adequate to ensure their protection, proper development and maintenance of open  space and recreational areas.  This has led to total neglect and even destruction of the open spaces, green belts and reserves.

Pressure on urban land has  forced land administrators to indiscriminately encroach on public parks, garden and open spaces. There is also an increase in social vices such as crime, juvenile delinquency, restiveness, drug addiction/abuse, immorality, divorce and family disintegration and acrimony. Some of these social vices could be ameliorated if family oriented leisure activities are encouraged.

A better use of leisure time especially by engaging in recreational activities has many advantages such as encouragement of family social interaction, bond and cohesion, which will help in development of the body and mind of the individual. Besides, its facility requirements, is such that adds to the beauty and amenity of the urban environment. It equally encourages exercises that boost energy, remove stress, and improve self-image and mental alertness.

The environmental conditions of the existing nkwobi, ugba and palm-wine joints health-wise are very ridiculous. Dangerous avenues for diseases and epidemic coupled with the fact that sections where the preparation and cooking took place are unhygienic, that clients would tend to vomit if they mistakenly sight these environmentally unsightly kitchens. The unconventional areas left for the city dwellers to resort to recreation, mostly in the evenings are immorality infested that both family men and unmarried could only take their girlfriends to resort and enjoy themselves with its attendant social vices and disease such as HIV/AIDS, gonorrhea, syphilis, drug addiction drunkenness and family disintegration.

Justification for the Study

The body system need not be overworked and constantly under stress. There is usually a time for one to get off the usual routine daily activities that are geared towards the pursuit of wealth. This time-off period from work is a time of leisure in which one engages in recreational activities.

Parks are intended to provide a means of escape from the cramped, confined and controlling circumstances of the streets of the town, in order words, a sense of enlarged freedom (Alexander, 2000).Further, parks will improve physical health by supplying air screened and purified by trees and recently acted upon by sun. This improves mental health by providing an opportunity to escape from conditions requiring vigilance, wariness and activity towards other(s).

A strategically located central park should be advocated along side smaller ones in a decentralized mode to meet neighborhood recreational needs and properly related to the central one.

Open Spaces
An integrated approach for improving environmental quality of open space in terms of its typology, morphology and functional attributes is to be done by identifying spatial distribution of urban open spaces and evaluating the resulting perception of socio-cultural public realm which will provide solution to plan potentials open spaces within the city that will provide positive environmental quality.
Open space is “land not built upon” which may be either natural or man made or land developed as gardens and recreations ground or undeveloped land which has value for recreation purposes, amenities and conservation of land and other natural resources, historic or scenic landscape, or areas of outstanding natural beauty. Open space has also been defined  as land area not built upon, ranged considerably from purely natural landscape to definitely cultural, artificially designed areas from huge green areas to almost

entirely enclosed small outdoor rooms,. They are also differentiated by the framework of various human activities performed in the space.

 

WhatCom County Web Services (2006) defined open space as either; any land area zoned for open space by a comprehensive Land Use Plan adopted by a city or country legislative authority, or
1.         Any land area in which the preservation in its present use would
a.         Conserve and enhance natural or scenic resources
b.         Protect streams or water supply
c.         Promote conservation of soils, wetlands, beaches or tidal marshes
d.         Enhance the value to the public of abutting or neighboring parks, forest, wild life preserves, natural reservations or sanctuaries or other open space
e.         Enhance recreation opportunities
f.          Preserve historic sites
g.         Preserve visual quality along highway, road and street corridor or scenic vista or
h.         Retain in its natural state tracts of land not less than one acre situated in an urban area and open public use on such conditions as may be reasonably required by the granting authority.
2.         Or any meeting the definition of “farm and agricultural land” which means either
a.         Land previously considered under farm and agriculture classification that no longer meets the criteria and reclassified under open space land or
b.         Traditional farmland not classified that has not been irrevocably devoted to a use in consistent with agricultural uses and that has a high potentials for returning to.

In summary, the term open space covers anything from the small front and back gardens

in private residential houses to larger and more functional types such as school playing fields, recreation grounds, race course, golf courses, polo grounds, public parks, botanical gardens, country and regional parks. It also embraces “natural landscapes, such as water areas, rivers, valleys, hills, mountains, lakes, oceans and bays”.

 

Recreation
Smith (1969) defined recreation as a form of play or amusement, refreshment of the body and mind, something that pleasantly occupies one’s time after work is done. It has also been described it as an activity, which is voluntarily undertaking and practically motivated by leisure and satisfaction. Igbozurike (1986) opined that recreation is diversionary and relaxing activity which one engages in, usually outside his normal livelihood preoccupation, it is voluntary, enjoyable and often without pressure, spontaneous or pre-planned. In other words, it may be regarded as the antithesis of work. Kaplan (1988) sees recreation as one of re-creating or revitalizing people so that they may efficiently return to activities which are not recreation but economically gainful work.

Recreation methods and opportunities under good supervision can help to overcome an individual’s weakness and strengthen him. Again recreation plays a role in crime reduction and prevention. But the true appreciation of the contributions which recreation could make to the quality of the life in the urban environment according to Akintola-Arikawe (1980) seems to be just beginning commanding only a little lip service it receives from public officials.

Researches thus far on the study have restricted its scope to the behavioural pattern of the people with regards to frequency and duration of participation without thorough consideration of the landscape quality between the people and the spaces.

Research Approach

People’s participation in recreation activities makes the provision of parks and gardens more meaningful and satisfying. Their participation are informed by many factors including socio- cultural and economic variables of the people namely: sex, marital status, age, income, level of education, occupation, car ownership.

The amount of time available for leisure, available facilities and other factors relating to the recreational areas as accessibility, landscape quality, marketing and publicity contribute significantly to people’s participation. These factors are; indication of recreation habit of the people and important factor to be considered in making forecasts about changing levels of participation.

It is therefore necessary to collect and analyze such primary social data to form the basis of landscape planning and design. It is important to also consider the significance of people’s traditional way of life (culture) and climatic factor that influence the perception of leisure and recreation. Whether indoor or outdoor, culture and climate do play important roles in open space creation. For instance, tropical climate/vegetation greatly influences the perception of leisure and recreation in this region.

Questionnaires are drafted to cover the needs of the people and the variables obtained as data analysed with lay down parameters to arrive at an ideal solution to the people’s open space perception and recreational needs. 

Research Methodology
A survey was conducted on Owerri urban of Imo State, Nigeria, by using questionnaires as a data - gathering instrument. The study areas was divided into five clusters as follows; Aladinma, Ikenegbu, Amakohia, Owerri Municipal and New Owerri. One hundred and fifty respondents were chosen in each cluster through Systematic Random Sampling Method. The respondents need for recreation

 

were ascertained as stated in Table I, and Table II.

Research Results
The results show that greater percentage of city dwellers need recreational facilitates. This could be by adequate provision of open spaces. The case where majority of the open spaces in the master plan have been drastically encroached upon by land administrations and overzealous land speculators has made outdoor recreational facilities virtually non-existent. The few that care resort to eating houses, restaurants and hotels for leisure activities with its attendant negative consequences which have been clearly enumerated in the problem statement.

There is no option to open space recreation which prevents the city from urban sprawl, blightedness, congestion and overcrowding. Open space recreation will to   a great extent adds to the aesthetes of the city, boost its economic potentials. Healthy and hygienic environment will engender sustainability. The number of people who do not need recreational activities as recorded in Table II increases  as you move away from the elitist environment of the clusters. It is as a result of the low ebb in the provision of recreational facilities within the neghbourhood of the non-elitist clusters. Even though the concept of open spaces is indigenous, the hustle and bustle of life coupled with hard times has drastically eroded the consciousness and importance of recreational activities from their agenda. Concerted efforts should be directed to awaken their consciousness in the need for recreational activities. 

Therefore, open spaces should be identified using all the available device  such as cadastral, electronic and even satellite imagery to retrieve, redeem and restore existing open spaces and translated architecturally into the much needed recreational facilities.

Conclusion

Open spaces will reduce congestion of buildings, abate road from resonating with buildings, ensure sufficient day- lighting and as well  prevent the catastrophic effect of densely built up areas on the people.
Equally, open spaces,  if skillfully designed architecturally will definitely fulfill several functions: as a place for rural escape, release of tensions of people feeling hemmed in, recuperate and regenerate, where people can stroll, sit or lie. In short they offer people the opportunity to enlarge their freedom in a limited space (Falade, 1998).

To reclaim, redeem and restore, already encroached open spaces provided in a city masterplan, public participation in the way of carrying them along to appreciate the indispensable functions of open spaces is highly needed. In addition, the need for multi-disciplinary approach where several branches of learning, including the social sciences, the professions of architecture, civil engineering, estate management and law for result oriented action

Recommendations
The provision and management of open spaces in any environment is vital to the aesthetics of that environment and if properly managed will engender environmental sustainability. Open spaces could be provided and properly sustained by the law but if awareness is not adequately created in the minds of the people, the possibility of abuse could be glaring. No wonder our open spaces have grossly disappeared from our city scenario due to encroachment with permanent and temporary students.

  •  Public participation in a way of carrying the people along is of primary importance. Then, the relevant government agencies could now embark on careful and systematic identification of the encroached open spaces and existing ones.
     

  •  Articulation of necessary resources: requisite personnel and capital needed for restoration. It includes getting to the drawing board and engaging the required number of professionals e.g. the architects, civil engineers, estate managers, horticulturist etc to come up a working plan and designs. These must be put in place before going to the streets for skillful demolitions.
 
  •  
  The resettlement of the affected citizens and organizations and appropriate compensation paid were necessary before demolition.
Then, the procurement of materials and construction process immediately the demolitions are carried to forestall the possibility of illegal invasion of redeemed and restored open spaces.

 

 

References:
Abdulkarim, M. (2004), Contemporary issues in urban landscape design, The Journal of Nigerian Institute of Architects  4,(1)
1.        
Agbaeze, U.O. (2003,) Fundamentals of Town Planning, Okigwe. Whytem Publishers, Nigeria.

 

Akintola – Arikawe O. (1985) Recreational space and the recreation resource potentials of urban Vegetal Islands in Metopolitan Lagos. A preliminary assessment in urban and regional planning problems in Nigeria, AARCHES Journal (3)

Alexanda, G. (2000); Parks, recreation, and open space, A twenty-first century agenda,  Washington. American Planning Association.
           
Fadamiro, J.A, 2001, An Analytical Study of the Open Spaces and the Implication

for Landscape Planning in Akure, Nigeria, A thesis submitted to the School of Post Graduate Studies, Federal University of technology, Akure, Nigeria.

 

Falade J.B. (1985). Nigeria’s Urban Open Space, An assessment of the current provision on outdoor leisure pursuits, Edinburgh ArchitectureRresearch, 12, 89-103.

 

Falade J.B. 1988: Principle of Landscape design, construction and management: a proposal for workshop submitted to UNIFEC, s Obafemi Awolowo University, lle-ife, Nigeria.

Falade J.B. (1998)” Public Acquisition of land for lands caping and open space management .Journal of Nigeria Institute of Town Planners Vol. xi

Federal Republic of Nigeria,(1988). Urban and Regional Planning Decree, No. 88, Lagos Government Press.

Freemen, N. (1977): Ethnic differences in the ways we perceive and use space; American Institute of Architects  Journal 66( 2)

Kaplan M. (1988)”Sustainable open space development .Israel Journal of Environment,  21 ( 3)

 

Stellman S.O. et al (1978); Recreation planning and design, London: Architectural Press

What COM Country Web Services (2006). Comprehensive land use plan to be adopted by a  City or County Legislative Authority.