|Beauty of the Savannah
Thursday 7th October 2004
Photo: Lester Forde
This week we examine the role of the
Queen’s Park Savannah in the development of our capital city and its
lessons for the future.
Our series of articles has so far focused
on the tangible aspects of real estate values and property investment,
we now turn to some of the intangible, subtle benefits.
There is no doubt that well-maintained
parks and leisure facilities add to the enjoyment of living in an area
and this is reflected in the higher prices commanded by property near to
or overlooking parks. In our capital, it can be argued that the decision
to create the Savannah worked out to the benefit of many generations of
us city dwellers, as well as others.
Can anyone imagine what our capital would
be like if we had no Savannah, with intense urban developments—like
Newtown or Belmont—merging directly one into the other? Apart from being
the showcase for national cultural shows and festivals, the Savannah has
made it possible for generations of urbanites to exist in the cramped
areas at its edges.
Some key points are:
Our national population is about 1.3
million and the Savannah occupies approximately 200 acres in our
capital. Traffic and accidents were commonplace when two-way traffic was
the norm around the Savannah. Today, of course, we sometimes jokingly
refer to it as “the world’s largest roundabout.” Even as we smile at
this, it is important to realise that it was possible to change what was
no doubt seen as a permanent feature of the capital. All that was
necessary was the vision and will to try something new and sensible.
The poor drainage of Port-of-Spain, noted
in previous columns in this series, has been made worse by the
unauthorised paving of the Savannah.
The Cipriani Boulevard corner of the
Savannah is its lowest point and this paving has resulted in
unprecedented flooding at that junction whenever there is heavy rain.
I cannot remember this being the case in
the past and one of the less-known consequences is that the area between
the Grand Stand and the All Saint’s Church is a virtual swamp for a
considerable time after heavy rains.
The persistent flooding is only getting
worse and there is no improvement in sight if we keep ignoring the
It might be necessary to consider taking
bold steps to arrest the problem by replacing the paving with more
absorbent concrete “grass-pavers.”
Alternatively, we could create a really
new feature by building a retention lake/pond in those low-lying areas
to control the outflow after heavy rains.
The Savannah needs a better programme of
maintenance if it is to remain the pride of Port-of-Spain. One only has
to look at the vanished cast-iron railings between The Hollows and
Queen’s Park East, the overflowing bins at weekends and holidays or the
appalling state of the Sandtrack to get the point.
Over the years we have become almost
immune to persistent and high-profile illegality in our nation—from
out-of-season “wild meat” at State functions to heavily-tinted car
windows for Cabinet members and yes, the now-normal sight of vehicles—up
to trucks—driving over and parking on the Savannah.
The presence of vehicles on the Savannah
is not only a hazard to non-drivers, it also compacts the soil so that
its absorbency is reduced. Can we expect that the illegal vehicular
accesses will be closed off?
We recently saw announcements that a
security firm was contracted to monitor the Savannah. Will their
contract extend to enforcing the prohibition against vehicles in the
Next week we examine the management of