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    Jul 24, 2015

    Will carpark charges put brakes on park visits?

    PARKING will no longer be free at selected carparks in 12 popular parks across the island from this month, ruffling the feathers of some parkgoers.

    The National Parks Board (NParks) is rolling out an automated parking system at 18 carparks in the parks, including Choa Chu Kang Park, Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park and Labrador Nature Reserve.

    The move, introduced at parks serving a large number of users, was meant to regulate usage and prevent abuse, said NParks director of parks Chia Seng Jiang in a forum letter published in The Straits Times yesterday.

    "In recent years, NParks has been receiving complaints on the constant misuse of parking spaces in the above parks, where parking spaces were taken up for extended periods of time by non-park users," he said.

    The new system is already in place at East Coast Park, where users said they are now charged $1 per hour, at all times of the day. Previously, they could park for free.

    But some have expressed concern that the new charges - which ST understands are standard parking rates - could discourage people, especially the elderly and disabled, from visiting the parks regularly.

    Housewife Lim Lih Mei, who is in her 40s, told ST: "I can understand why charges would be imposed, because land is scarce. But parks are for general public use.

    "For those with elderly people and young children, driving a car is a necessity rather than a luxury. So why should they be penalised?"

    Jessy Leow, 70, who visits East Coast Park with her husband of the same age at 6am every day, suggested that the authorities could look into giving a grace period during the early morning hours.

    "At night, I agree that the carparks are very packed. But in the morning, there's hardly anyone there as most of the shops don't open until around 11am," she said.

    Madam Leow, who suffers from arthritis and gout, added that taking public transport to the park is very inconvenient for seniors like herself.

    Others suggested that NParks could have looked into more effective ways to prevent abuse of the parking spaces. For instance, it could have tried to find out which timings were more prone to misuse.

    "It was very shocking to find out (NParks was) charging us," said claims executive Bernard Kan, 57, who was at Pasir Ris Park last week. It should have tackled the problem directly rather than using a sledgehammer, he added.

    Graphic designer Fu Zijia, 26, a regular West Coast Park visitor, said the new fees could lead to fewer park visitors.

    While he did not mind the charges, the new fees could put others off. "People will think twice about parking there," he said.

    In its forum letter yesterday, NParks said it appreciated feedback on the charges and would be monitoring the situation at these carparks.