An on-going project for a golf course precipitated a heated debate about public rights recently among residents and experts in Tianjin, a coastal city in North China.
The golf driving range, invested by a private firm, is under construction in Bibozhuang, an ancient-style garden built in 1986 by the Tianjin Municipal Garden and the Forestry Administration Bureau with public investment, Xinhua News Agency reported.
The 15,000-square-metre garden is one of the most unique gardens in the Tianjin Water Park, which has been a popular recreation and entertainment spot for Tianjin residents for 50 years.
"I do not understand how garden managers can use this public resource to serve only a few rich people," said Li Jinran, a retired worker who used to do his morning exercises in the park.
"Tianjin Water Park is for all local residents and the city has limited number of such public spaces," the retired worker was quoted by Xinhua as saying.
Chen, another retired worker, said he has been doing morning exercises in the park for almost 30 years and gets depressed when he sees the golfing range construction.
In response to the local residents' displeasure, the water park management said it had no choice.
According to Li Qiang, Party secretary of the water park administration office, the golf course project was approved by the municipal garden and forestry administration bureau and the rent from the land would help alleviate the park's fund shortage.
"The everyday cost of the park is 127,000 yuan (US$15,875), but we can not earn that much money through selling tickets," Li said.
According to park management regulations issued by the Ministry of Construction in 2005, parks and gardens invested by government cannot be transferred or rented out.
However, Ma Lianyong, director of the city's garden and forestry administration, said that the leasing of the water park is legal because the business area in a park will occupy less than 2 per cent of the total park area and the golf course only 1.5 per cent.