Tema children’s park under threat: Citizens oppose conversion to residential space
Community recreation facilities are vital spaces that enable social connections and add up to better physical and mental health of community members.
A children’s park in any part of the world provides an opportunity for parents to connect with their children, a place where children can build their social skills, be empowered and be able to build their mental faculties, emotional stability, social dynamisms and relations among others.
The Tema Metropolis boasts of one of such centres that was crucial for helping young people develop lifelong healthy habits, especially after school programmes that helped them solidify their teamwork and leadership.
The 6.18-acre land located adjacent the Tema Senior High School, which also houses the only public library in the harbour city, has been left to rot.
Sadly, the facility has been neglected and the environment is overgrown with weeds. Parts of the facility have become a haven for all manner of miscreants. Some squatters have also erected shacks which serve as a dwelling place for them.
Swings and other play items have all been vandalized, while a chain link fencing mounted to secure the land have all been removed by scrap dealers.
Recently, users of the library spotted heaps of sand and stones being deposited on the land. Not long after, some artisans were seen digging trenches in a bid to fence the land.
Enquiries revealed that the land had been leased to a private developer by the Tema Metropolitan Assembly for high rise residential facilities instead of the original plan as a recreational centre.
These developments have since incurred the wrath of some citizens of Tema, who have vowed to oppose any such plans to alter the original purpose of the land.
A Dental Surgeon, Dr Grace Andoh, who is a leading voice for the Zonta Club, an international organisation that works to make gender equality a reality for women and girls worldwide, expressed concern about the intended re-development of the land.
It was previously given to the Zonta Club by the TDC under the leadership of the then Managing Director, Ebenezer Aryee- Bonte, to manage.
She said sometime in the mid 80s, the club under the leadership of Dr Deborah Cubagee, initiated the idea of replicating the Efua Sutherland Children's Park in Tema.
Dr Andoh said the team received support from Ralph Sutherland, son of Efua Sutherland and one Bentsi-Enchill, an architect who came up with architectural drawings of the children’s park and the library.
She said the Zonta Club held various fundraising events to develop the place while the Volta Aluminium Company, known as Valco, also supported by installing play items at the park.
“We had play items such as swings, slides and even swings for adults all installed at the park,” she said, adding that with advocacy, the club managed to put up toilet facilities and other amenities to develop the land into a recreational facility.
She insisted that the place was designed to be a children’s park and Zonta would not sit back and allow the land to be redeveloped for other purposes.
Gideon Kodzo Tetteh, a leading member of the Concerned Citizens of Tema who is also opposed to the rezoning of the recreational park and library into a residential dwelling unit, said although there was evidence to back their claims that the children’s park land had been leased to a private developer by the TMA, they won’t sit back to watch the land use plan changed from a library and children’s park into a residential or commercial facility.
He appealed to development partners to get on board to develop the land into a modern recreational facility which grandparents, parents and children can utilise.
Mr Tetteh said the group had met with the Board and Management of TDC, Management of TMA and Tema West Municipal Assembly, as well as the security agencies where they expressed their concerns and got the assurance that the issues around the children’s park would be addressed.
He indicated that following concerns raised by stakeholders, the TDC, in collaboration with the Tema Metropolitan Assembly and Tema West Municipal Assembly, had met with stakeholders to address concerns regarding the Tema Children's Park.
He said he was so far satisfied with the explanation offered and the assurances given by the city authorities that the children’s park and library facility would be maintained and not converted into a residential or commercial facility.
The immediate past President and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Full Gospel Church International (FGCI) who added his voice to the call to preserve the children’s park in Tema said the institutions responsible must not mortgage it for residential or commercial activities.
“This is the only park available for the children in the city and we have authorities who would rather think of other commercial activities instead of improving the lives of our people,” he said.’
He said the facility had the potential of helping reduce crime and yet the city managers would rather opt to sell or lease it out to a private developer at the expense of empowering young people.
Bishop Mensah urged the city managers to focus on developing the city as envisioned by the former President of Ghana, Dr Kwame Nkrumah.
He called on the TDC and TMA to rather give the land to responsible people who would turn it into a modern recreational facility for the sake of the children.
Checks by the Daily Graphic at TDC Development Company Ltd indicated that the 6.18-acre land was subleased to the TMA in 2013 by the TDC upon request by the then MCE, Robert Kempes Ofosu Ware, to be developed into a modern high rise and commercial facility over a 60-year period.
In leasing out the land, TMA was expected to pay peppercorn rent of GH¢1.00 per annum. However, in February 2013, the TMA applied to the TDC for consent to sublease the plot to WB Impex Limited for a term of 55 years.
In 2018, the then MCE of TMA, Felix Mensah Nii Anang-La, repeated the application and impressed on the TDC to grant the application. Thereafter, the sublease application was granted and the land leased to a private developer.
The Protocol and Administrative officer of TDC, Ian Okwei, in an interview with the Daily Graphic he explained that the land in question was leased to the TMA in 2012, based on a formal request from the assembly.
He refuted allegations that the land had been sold to a private developer by the TDC, adding that the land was still designated as a site for a recreational facility for children in Tema.
Meanwhile the MCE for Tema, Yohane Amarh Ashitey, has indicated that the assembly is studying the contract document signed between the
TMA and the private developer 11 years ago for further action.