On May 13, Yudai River Ecological Cultural Park in Huangjinpo, Changzhou Sub-district, Rongchang District, which officially opened in September of last year, appeared verdant. It can be seen from the aerial view that the ponds and lakes are inlaid like pretty pearls between the cliffs in the mine area.
In the afternoon, Yu Zhenglong, a sanitation worker, was cleaning the fallen leaves and dust on both sides along a trail in the park. Thanks to the change in the ecological environment, Yu, previously a quarryman, has become a guardian of the park. “The park is at the doorstep now, which was unimaginable before.”
Huangjinpo was one of the main quarrying areas in Rongchang, with the Yudai River running through it. In recent years, the local government has carried out ecological restoration in the mine area along the Yudai River and created the eco-friendly, waterside, and leisurely Yudai River Ecological Cultural Park. The mine area turned into a tourist attraction have attracted many residents like Yu.
Running water is diverted from the upstream reservoir to create ponds and lakes based on the original appearance of the pits. The Yudai River, with a total length of 4.6 kilometers, is a tributary of the Rongfeng River. In the 1990s, Rongchang started urban construction on a large scale. Huangjinpo, back then, was still a small village on the outskirts of the city. Seven or eight quarries were built on the land with rich resources.
As one of the first quarrymen, Yu began to work in a nearby quarry while his wife farmed. The hills needed to be blown up before quarrying. He and his co-workers drilled holes with steel chisels and then filled them with explosives. As the hills were cut off, the vegetation was destroyed in quantity. The mined rocks were processed into building stones for roads and houses.
The quarrying made people rich but ruined the lush hills. The mining over the years turned Huangjinpo into a place of bare rocks. Seven open pits were formed between the hills, with a maximum depth of about 80 meters. The surrounding cliffs were barren, and the Yudai River had nearly dried. “The damaged hills couldn’t retain the water, so surrounding areas suffered from drought year-round, and even crops couldn’t survive.” Yu felt upset with the ecological destruction. In 2005, he quit his job and became a migrant worker.
“Only when the ecological environment becomes better can the city achieve sustainable development and the people’s wellbeing be guaranteed,” an official of Rongchang District said.
The district launched a comprehensive renovation project of the pits along the Yudai River in 2018 to make up for the ecological debt owed. After the quarries were closed down, there remained the abandoned mine area of over 600 mu, where the pits were filled with smelly sewage and garbage and debris thrown away by the villagers. “The abandoned pits are harmful to the environment, bring serious safety hazards, and are difficult to be handled.” The official said that the preliminary research found that the pits, of which most were large, caused ground subsidence. Backfilling consumes manpower and will hinder later greening efforts.
Therefore, they gave up on the traditional method. The original appearance of the pits was retained, running water was diverted from the upstream reservoir, and retaining walls, drainage channels, and other facilities were built around the pits, so seven ponds and lakes of different sizes were created.
In this way, the stinky pits have been turned into ponds and lakes with lucid water, and the once devastated mine area revived.
At Shengshi Tangcheng, a core scenic spot in the park, four pits are connected to form a lake with clear ripples. Flowers flank the pedestrian trail built around the lake, and the elegant pavilions, with glazed roofs, overhanging eaves, rake angles, carved beams, and painted rafters, stand on the cliffs beside the lake. They blend with the lush hills and lucid water.
“Due to the damage from many trucks transporting the stones, the roads around the pits were rugged in the past,” Yu recalled that he and his co-workers heard a sharp sound of a trumpet as they were working one day. They realized that a truck had almost run into a digger. The truck driver slammed the brakes on, and half of the truck was thrown over the edge of a pit. It cost them great efforts to help the driver pull the truck back.
The work was hard for quarrymen, exposed to dusty conditions all year round. Yu suffered from respiratory diseases and coughed badly with the change of seasons. “I have always wanted a park at the doorstep so that I can go for a walk in my spare time and breathe in the fresh air,” Yu said.
“What the masses want is what we should do,” said an official of the Rongchang District. Revolving around the district’s culture featuring cherry-apple tree blossoms, they vigorously implemented ecological greening, water environment governance, and other projects and thus created three scenic spots: Shengshi Tangcheng, Zuimei Haitang, and Yudai Yanyu.
The amazing deep ponds with lucid water were yet compromised by the exposed cliffs around. The local government inventively erected city gates, city walls, towers, pavilions, and other Tang-style buildings on the cliffs to endow this place with a historical charm and distinctive scenery. The once bare hillsides have been planted with 87 kinds of flowers and plants, such as cherry-apple trees and cherry trees at Zuimei Haitang, which set off the culture themed with cherry-apple tree blossom. At Yudai Yanyu, hydrophilic plants such as canna and reed have been cultivated along the river and on the shoal. Thus ecological wetlands have been created to restore the beauty of nature to the greatest extent.
Yu went back home for the Spring Festival holiday this year. He and his wife walked around the Yudai River Ecological Cultural Park. Upon seeing the greenery all over the former mine area, he was indescribably joyous. He did not leave his hometown after the holiday but applied for a job as a sanitation worker in the park. “With lush hills and lucid water, I’m able to enjoy the fresh air every day. I even cough less.”
Thanks to the improvement of the ecological environment, many residents around the mine area have greeted a new life like Yu. In the residential area next to Yudai River Ecological Cultural Park, buildings are neatly arranged, and shops are lined on both sides of roads to constitute a bustling scene. It is the resettlement site that Rongchang has built for the comprehensive renovation of the mine area. Over 200 households have moved here.
The Rongfeng River Water Conservancy Scenic Area featuring a bond of the water system also incorporates the Yudai River. By extending steep hillsides and turf slopes into the water and implanting gabion meshes, more than ten kinds of aquatic and terrestrial plants pleasing to the eye have been transplanted to add beauty to the riversides so that the natural form of the rivers and the vegetation are preserved as much as possible. Meanwhile, scenic spots such as the Chinese Grass Cloth Town, the Pig Culture Corridor, and the National People’s Congress Culture Park have been built with nostalgic elements and regional culture. Egrets frequent the waterfront, surrounded by clear water and lush grass. The bridges flying over water and pavilions remind people of the good old days in their hometown.
The Rongfeng River Water Conservancy Scenic Area welcomes a peak of about 15,000 tourists per day and 2.38 million tourists per year. It enjoys the highest popularity in Rongchang.
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