BMA reaches high for the 'Sky Park' in the capital
An unfinished rail project will be transformed into a new public space over the Chao Phraya River
Forget the controversial riverside promenade, Bangkok Observation Tower and Tha Phra Chan-Siriraj Hospital pedestrian bridge projects. Those of you who want to indulge yourselves with a walk by the Chao Phraya River will be able to do so in about a year.
The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) has a plan to transform the Lavalin Skytrain project -- that was left unfinished between Phra Pok Klao and Saphan Phut bridges in 1984 -- into a new public park.
If everything goes as planned, the unfinished Lavalin Skytrain structure, better known to locals as saphan duan (the cut-off bridge), will be converted into the "Phra Pok Klao Sky Park" by the end of next year.
Inspired by the High Line project in New York -- that turned the defunct elevated rail track that used to deliver food to New Yorkers between the 1930s and 1960s into an elevated linear park -- the Phra Pok Klao Sky Park will be Thailand's first public park to cross the Chao Phraya River.
The project is part of the so-called "Now" policy of Bangkok governor Aswin Kwanmuang, in which he aims to revitalise and develop old and unused structures into green public space for the benefit of all, deputy Bangkok governor Thaweesak Lertprapan, said.
Aside from the magnificent views of the river, its two banks are also packed with historic sites, he said, adding that when construction of the new public park is complete, members of the public will be able to relax and enjoy the spectacular scenery.
The park will emerge as a new landmark and should help spur the city's tourism, he said. If the elevated park project had been proposed as a new project, it is unlikely it would happen, he said.
But since it will be further developed from an unfinished scheme, the project is seen as being equivalent to recycling an old structure into something new and valuable to the public.
The BMA's Department of City Planning (DCP), which is responsible for designing the elevated park, is confident it will be open to public by the end of next year.
The Phra Pok Klao Sky Park project came about as part of a study conducted to gather information to be used as the input in the drafting of a master plan for the preservation and revitalisation of old towns and the Kadi Chin-Khlong San area, called "Bangkok 250", said Prapapan Channuan, acting director-general of the department.
Land Readjustment and Urban Renewal Division City Planning Department
The study was carried out by the Urban Design and Development Centre (UDDC), she said.
After the project won approval by BMA executives recently, the UDDC was hired again to develop details of the sky park's design, she said.
The final design of the park will still have to be approved by the Department of Rural Roads that owns Phra Pok Klao Bridge, the Expressway Authority of Thailand that owns the unused section of the Lavalin Skytrain's rail track, the Marine Department that takes care of the Chao Phraya River and its banks and the DCP that is also playing a role in designing the project, she said.
At an estimated cost of 129 million baht, the unused section of rail track will be developed into a park about 280 metres long, 8.5m wide and sit in the centre Phra Pok Klao Bridge, she said.
The sky park will have two entrances, one on the Bangkok Bank and the other on the Thonburi side of the river. The entrances will be connected to staircases and lifts will be installed for the disabled and elderly.
No vehicles other than bicycles will be allowed into the park. They will only be allowed to be wheeled in the park, not ridden.
The old concrete and steel structure left from the Lavalin Skytrain project has only one level; but as the designer team wants visitors to enjoy different river views, they will add higher and lower platforms to the existing one.
Walls, made of fibreglass-reinforced concrete that is light yet highly durable and can withstand heavy impacts, will be installed to prevent park visitors from falling through the gaps between platforms, Ms Prapapan said.
When open to public, security guards will be on duty at the park that will be open from 6am until 8pm daily.
"We expect a huge number of park visitors because this project does come from calls [for a public park] by many people living in nearby areas," she said.
"They have agreed that the unused railroad structure should be renovated after having been left for decades in an area surrounded by beautiful and valuable historic sites.
"We're designing the park to blend well with ongoing efforts to revitalise the old towns," she added.