Mixed views on Savannah ‘beautification’

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Benches painted red as part of the I Love My Street initiative at the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain. – Photo by Enrique Rupert

The Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries has approved a project to “beautify” aspects of the Queen’s Park Savannah which is receiving mixed reviews.

In a press release on January 29, the ministry said it was committed to preserving the “pristine” condition of the “iconic” Savannah.

As a result, it said it proudly endorsed the I Love My Street initiative, described as a nationwide movement aimed at instilling pride and responsibility among citizens for the preservation of Trinidad and Tobago.

Part of the plan involves painting the concrete benches around the perimeter of the Savannah. So far, approximately a third have been painted, most in bright red and some in light green or reddish-brown. They are on the north and southeast sides of the Savannah.

A regular Savannah runner told Newsday on April 15: “The paint looks hideous. The unpainted benches blended into the background because they are old, weathered concrete.”

The runner asked, “Did they get this paint at a discount because the colours are so ugly?

“Were any actual Savannah users or landscapers consulted? Anyone who could explain that painting can often have the opposite effect to “beautifying’ something? Is there a long-term plan for when the paint fades or wears away?

“Hopefully not, and it’ll wear off soon.”

Some of the benches around the Savannah have been painted light green as part of the I Love My Street initiative at the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain. – Photo by Enrique Rupert

She added, “If they wanted to actually beautify something, they could have fixed the broken benches, or the eyesore at the foot of Lady Young Road – your first sight of the city if you come over the hill – where piles of dirt and dump trucks occupy a site between the road and the St Ann’s River. That could have been re-landscaped and made very attractive.”

Mike Kabir, who frequents the Queen’s Park Savannah, agreed: “They should leave it just the way it is. When the elements hit, it’ll look hideous. It’s just a waste of time and money that can be used to do different things in the Savannah – security, fixing the broken benches.”

But Colin Clarke, who is in his late 60s, said, “Since I small they never used to paint it, so is a good surprise. They should paint all.”

Clarke added, “They should really try to get rid of the vagrants that does sleep there though, so they could keep the beauty a little longer.”

Unpainted benches at the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain. – Photo by Enrique Rupert

Chanice Tebman, a tourist from North Carolina who was strolling around the Savannah, said, “I prefer the natural essence, but painting the benches does make it a lot more noticeable.”

Newsday tried to contact Port of Spain mayor Chinua Alleyne and deputy mayor Abena Hartley, but was unsuccessful.

Neither could ministers Kazim Hosein and Avinash Singh from the Agriculture Ministry be reached.