Altone Park

A playground for the kids, a river or lake nearby, a BBQ pit and empty parking lots. That is all a man needs.

Altone Park is just one of the hundreds of parks around the state. This isn't a special feature on the park. In fact it was because Altone Park was so ordinary that I would like to take the opportunity to introduce the concepts behind the parks in Perth. I feel that parks in Perth are grossly under rated by Singaporeans in general. The reason is simple. Our parks in Singapore leave much to be desired. Thus few Singaporean tourist will consider visiting an ordinary neighbhood park as part of his itinerary.

Allow me to explain. Our NParks will be the first to refute my claim. How dare I suggest that our parks in Singapore are sub-standard. Every single one of our parks was considered designed and built with top quality materials. Each of them is meticulously maintained by parks officers on regular basis to remain in tip top condition, right down to the last blade of Axonopus compressus. However, that is not what I have in mind. In fact, most parks in Perth pales in comparison to their Singapore counterparts when it comes to the generous usage of superior building materials. A shed will be a simply designed four columns hardly connected by cross beams hardly even comprising of a complete truss and clad with barely a colourbond sheet. Playgrounds were simple and modest. There hardly signages, plaques, monuments, designer sculptors nor water features. It almost cry, "Boring!" to most Singaporeans. Features, if any, are placed sparsely and sparingly in an almost zen-like style.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is what it is all about.

A good park takes your mind to a state of peace and calm. Although it is public, it should be private at the same time and pleasant to use. It should be closer to a changing room in a boutique on during at 10am in the morning than a public toilet in an MRT station during peak hours. A good park captures the imagination of the young and old by providing privacy to his or her body and soul. It should be a tenant and not a landlord of nature. 

Based on these 3 simple rules, most of the parks in Singapore would have failed in their core purpose. They would be there for the sake of it or to make up the numbers for green space tabulations though it is not entirely the fault of NParks. Space in Singapore is simply too big a constraint for anything that is economically unprofitable for the government to be made a priority of. So we end up having things that are better than nothing (take a look at some of those PCNs will ya?) yet heavily acclaimed as the next thing to heaven. Since Singaporeans bought into the ideas that they have access to world class parks (we call ourselves a Garden City you know) and subconsciously think nothing much about them, it is hardly a surprise hardly anyone will want to visit an ordinary park in a ordinary neighborhood overseas.

I even know Singaporeans who migrated to Perth for more than a year who have not visited any parks to have a BBQ. Friends who visited Perth and bunked in with my family to catch up or save accommodation cost were made to go to a park with me, if their stays were long enough. I insisted. One friend who said she might visit again in future declared, "Let's have another BBQ in a park!" I see that I had gotten one to see the magic in the gardens.

Well, the foremost purpose of a park is to weed out the stress in their visitors' mind.

free parking for me anytime, any day, with more empty lots than cars
The ease of parking is a good start. A "free parking" car park with no lots free at any time or causing unnecessary waiting for a lot is not good enough. A paying car park is worse. You will want to decide how long you want to hang around the park, not how long your cashcard allows you to. Even if you are loaded and a few dollars are nothing to you, just ask yourself this, "Wouldn't you feel better if you don't have to bother about parking fees?" You would. I know because my cars have no IU nor parking coupons in them for the 4 years I have been here and long may it continues.

Nature is second nature to parks in Perth. Here for example in Altone Park, a tiny lake that provided an ecosystem to animals and birds. Every park I have visited provided me with sounds of nature and visual enjoyment. On some days, you will see wild ducks waddling by in single files or a skein of geese taking a break by the edge of the waters. There are many parks along the Swan River where you can spot wild dolphins on a lucky day. In Singapore we have MacRitchie Reservoir, Sungei Buloh and a (small) part of Pasir Ris Park that is worth the salt. Unfortunately they are unable to bring nature into the neighbourhood parks the same way. It isn't the fault of NParks. Like I mentioned earlier, we have different priorities in Singapore. Also, these ducks and geese will probably end up in some people's oven in Singapore if they do not get culled first. Most of these mechanical parks in Singapore is not much different from Road Safety Park. (Yes, they even define that as a park)

BBQ stations will indefinitely to be found at any local parks in Perth. I mean, these guys would rather BBQ in the city than to watch a communist parade on their National Day. BBQ is the thing in Perth. Most of them are clean and ready to be used whenever you free hungry. In normal everyday parks, the pits are almost always available. In popular parks, these stations are always firing but the good news is, users are willing to share or finish up and let you have your turn soon enough. No man is left hungry.

Well if things are not good enough, these BBQ stations do not require pre-booking and are free to use. Just press a button and fire away. The first time I saw something like that in Singapore was a BBQ pit in West Coast where we had to dong 20 cents to keep it running for X minutes. What a fucking joke! There are too many things for a hungry man to worry about than 20 cent coins. If I met the guy who came up with that concept, I will shove a dollar note into that his throat.

Didn't I mention about freeing the mind? Visit a park in Perth, soak up in nature, meditate if you want, cook and eat if you are hungry, under the cool, revitalising breeze in the great Perth Autumn. That is something that money cannot buy, apparently, in some richest country in the world up North.