No need to travel to countryside to camp, pitch your tent in this park
Nicky Li was hyped up about her first urban camping experience in Shanghai.
She reserved a camping site at the revamped Yaohua Waterfront Greenland in the Pudong New Area the moment she heard the news the park was allowing people to put up tents.
It was a wise decision.
Over the weekend, more than 90 percent of the camping sites on the east Bund area, the Huangpu waterfront of Pudong, were reserved.
"Thankfully, I made a reservation three days in advance," she said. "We were able to get a good place to sit in the dappled shade and enjoy beautiful views of the Huangpu River."
The park, east to Yaojiang Road, west to Huangpu River, south to Houtan Wetland Park and north to Qiantan Sister City Park, covers nearly 17 hectares, almost the equivalent of 24 standard soccer fields.
For a long time, it was just a makeshift nursery to grow seedlings. In 2017, it was converted to a greenland, but the environment was still unwelcoming, with sparse lawns and straggling trees. In the fascinating east Bund, it looked a trifle out of place.
"The waterfront was walled off, and there were just weeds around," said Ma Zhifei, an official with Pudong's waterfront greenery management department. "In a word, it was a boring and dull pathway, not worth a second glance.
"But the waterfront is precious resource. We thought we should turn this precious plot to good account, and return an open beautiful waterfront to the public."
After a three-month facelift, it reopened to the public in mid-August, becoming the first and only "tent park" on the Huangpu waterfront.
Tens of thousands of square meters of ground cover, trees and flowers were planted to create diverse natural landscapes such as wetland and flower beds.
About 7,200 square meters of wooden pathways and plank docks wind through, providing 200 camping sites for people to put up tents, sit in the dappled shade, and enjoy beautiful views of the Huangpu River.
Graffiti paintings decorate the old gray flood-control walls. Visitors may run into a giant whale swimming in deep blue sea, a brown deer hopping across the bushes or a low Hobbit's home hidden in grassy hills.
Alongside, playground games such as hopscotch are painted on plain grounds. They echo with the surroundings and liven up the area.
It has turned out to be popular.
Over two months, the greenery's official WeChat (gh_7d0d8a04b382) has attracted nearly 30,000 followers and received nearly 4,000 online appointments, according to Pudong's ecology and environment bureau.
Rising popularity in camping
Nowadays, in China, camping is rising in popularity.
During the National Day holiday in early October, posts with hashtags for camping on China's popular life-sharing social media platform Xiaohongshu, also known as Red, rose 1,116 percent from a year ago.
In a sharper contrast, bookings for camping for the Mid-Autumn Festival in September increased by half than the Dragon Boat Festival, which was celebrated just three months before, according to China's major online travel operator Trip.com.
In metropolises like Shanghai, resort-style urban camping has become a popular option for weekend getaway as urban dwellers are going green. It offers an opportunity to get closer to nature with easy access, without the need to travel to remote areas with loads of camping gear. Furthermore, the coronavirus outbreak has fueled its popularity.
However, urban parks and green lands always say no to campers.
"It is often at odds with environmental protection," Ma said. "It's common to see people directly hammer tent nails into the grass. These nails are hard to pull out, and usually they are left. It destroys the ecology and leaves headaches for maintenance staff."
But the people's voices have been heard.
Plank decks have been provided at the Yaohua Waterfront Greenland for people to pitch tents.
"Cracks in the planks perfectly hold tent nails," Ma said. "It improves the local environment as well as catering to the needs of the public."
"We hope there could be more places like this in downtown Shanghai," she said. "My family loves urban camping. But previously we had to drive a long way to Lingang or Songjiang in the outskirts to put up tents. Now, we don't need to go there."
"What's better, it's completely free of charge," she said, with a thumbs-up.
"Today, we need such outdoor places because it's better to stay in Shanghai as the coronavirus is still lingering," she added. "It offers a new option for us, and it adds novelty value."
The greenery requires campers to make appointments in advance through its official WeChat. Details such as not-to-do list and parking information are illustrated.
"They need to fill in their names and mobile phone numbers, and choose a pitch and a time period," Zheng Huanjing, an official with Pudong's ecology and environment bureau, said. "We open from 8am to 6pm. Barbecues and sleeping rough overnight are banned.
"Also, we disinfect the site on a regular basis and check users' temperatures and health QR codes."
According to Li, they prepared fruit, snacks and garbage bags to take away rubbish.
Ma appreciated it.
"We hope campers can bring food by themselves, although there are also vending machines," he said. "And they are required to clean the mess after they use the site."
But admittedly, there have been sporadic uncivilized behaviors, the bureau notes, giving examples of riding bikes on wooden paths, anchoring hammocks to the trees, trampling on plants and putting up tents on other people's sites.
Countermeasures will be made, but for sure, more riverside green areas will open for tents, it said.
Now, the city is drafting regulations on waterfront spaces, and it has finished soliciting public opinions. Concerns such as putting up tents, walking dogs and fishing are included.
A more vibrant waterfront in Pudong
Pudong has envisioned a vibrant riverfront view in its 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) for riverside development along the Huangpu River.
Under the plan, in the coming five years, it will open up 7.3 kilometers of riverside space to the public, in addition to the current 22-kilometer section.
Millions of square meters of green areas and public spaces will be available, highlighted by the Expo Culture Park, set to be the largest green area in downtown Shanghai once completed by the end of 2023.
Covering about 2 square kilometers, it will feature a Chinese-style garden where traditional operas and art performances will be staged and an indoor garden located in a renovated factory.
These attractions will create a "natural landscape" in the concrete jungle by building hills and streams, rising up to a height of 48 meters, said Chen Zhu, vice general manager of the park's construction company.
More surprisingly, Pudong plans to build cable car lines above the river and cruise terminals on Minsheng Road, the former Expo site, the Qiantan area and other sites, whisking people to the parks, cultural heritages and commercial complexes on its banks.
Meanwhile, nearly 150,000 square meters of historic industrial heritage sites, like the Yaohua Glass Factory and No. 8 Xiepu Road at the Minsheng Wharf, will be renovated.
They will retain their historical flavor to showcase the city's distinctive past as well as take a new lease of life as modern facilities to hold runway shows, new product releases and other trendy interactive events.
Sun Yu, deputy director of Pudong's culture, sports and tourism bureau, said culture is a city's soul.
"As local GDP has made progress, now we are focusing more on meeting people's cultural demands," he said.
"Pudong already has many great attractions on the waterfront. Now, we hope to hold more parties, shows and concerts, among a variety of activities, to make people to stay. We hope to turn it into a world-class meeting place."