Reclaiming spaces for public leisure and community participation

Peter Adeyeye, Lagos Community Manager
Lagos, 9 August 2016

As the commercial center of Nigeria, Lagos has continued to attract flocks of migrants in the quest for partaking in the economic opportunities the city offers. The rapid population growth of the city has continued to exert pressure on available resources including public infrastructure and spaces. Areas that are designed to foster community lifestyle and leisure were diverted into business hubs, waste repository or the hideouts for miscreants. The absence of public spaces for leisure and rest created an environment of long hours of work while the few people with economic means explored private options.

The benefits of public parks and gardens cannot be undermined: they improve the quality of life, add to the aesthetics of the city, promote community lifestyle and participation and also create a green society. In recognition of the effect of parks and gardens, the Lagos state government “commenced an aggressive landscaping and beautification program in 2008 as a major component of the greening initiative of the State government to improve the aesthetics of the environment, restore the lost glory of Lagos as a beautiful state, create more recreational and relaxation centers and also mitigate the impact of climate change,” which was done through the Department of Conservation and Ecology Department of the Ministry of Environment.

The Lagos State Parks and Gardens Agency (LASPARK) was established in 2011 with the mandate of making “Lagos greener and healthier through the creation and maintenance of functional and operational parks and gardens, planting and maintenance of trees.” LASPARK serves as the regulatory agency for all designated parks and gardens in the city. It carries out government activities related to recreational centers, gardens and parks as well as regulating the hours of use of those spaces in order to guarantee the safety of users. It operates through four program areas: tree planting and management, beautification research and development, horticulture, research and development and monitoring, and enforcement and compliance.

In its five years of existence, 327 parks and gardens have been created and maintained under LASPARK, 212 established by the city government, 85 by the private and 31 established in schools. The creation of these parks and gardens have also created approximately 484 jobs for residents of the city along the value chain of parks and garden creation and maintenance. Those public spaces are also fostering newer relationships and community lifestyles that give individuals and groups the opportunity for leisure, networking, holding informal meetings and enjoying quietness. It has also promoted a greener and cleaner city, which was previously unimaginable. The 6,203,553 trees planted across the city since the commencement of public space reclamation in 2008 is a giant stride in the city’s quest for promoting environmental sustainability, as well.

In spite of the provision of public parks and gardens across the city, the frequency of patronage is often low except on weekends and special holidays. This could be predicated on the busy lifestyle of the city’s residents and also the cost charged at some of the parks that many may not be able to afford. It will be great to have public sensitization on the numerous benefits of work-life balance which will inform more patronage of these resources.

Photo credit: Peter Adeyeye

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