Make 'tracks' to the new bike and walking path through Chiayi rice paddies
Story and photos by Dan Bloom, Special to The China Post
October 4, 2007, 12:00 am TWN
An enterprising team of urban planners in the southwestern Taiwan city of Chiayi (嘉義) recently took over an unused and abandoned railroad running through the middle of the city and transformed it into a scenic "pedestrian paradise" and bicycle path with views of the distant Central Mountain Range.
Two separate concrete walking and bike paths embrace the refurbished wooden railroad ties on both sides of the unused track, making the 3.5 kilometer park a perfect retreat for quiet afternoon or evening strolls and relaxed biking. For visitors passing by Chiayi on the way to Ali Mountain via the famous narrow-gauge railway, this converted Chinese Petroleum Company (CPC) railroad is a recommended two-hour stopover.
The railroad track, built almost 70 years ago during the Japanese colonial period, has not been used to transport gasoline and oil into the CPC complex for the past seven years, and the unused track had become unsightly with overgrown weeds.
But when a team of civil engineers and urban designers put their heads together, a new walking and bike path emerged, gracefully rolling through the heart of Chiayi, with backyard views at every turn and long panoramas of rice paddies and flower gardens along the railway. Photo opportunities beckon along the entire way. No motorized vehicles are allowed, and as a result the new "CPC Pedestrian Paradise" is a quiet respite from the noisy streets of the growing city.
Wooden benches and chairs await you at several rest stops along the way, and graceful wooden arches point out the names of the old railway stops as well. Bring a box lunch and have a picnic at one of the rest stops as you relax in the heart of a city not always known for its urban charms.
For Chen Chun-lin, a native of Chiayi who is currently carrying out his military service in Kaohsiung, the new bike and walking path is part of Chiayi's rebirth.
"When I was in elementary and junior high school, I remember the old CPC trains bringing gas and oil in huge tankers to the CPC complex," Chen recalled. "Sometimes the train drivers would toot the horn for us and it was always a thrill. But when the trains stopped, the tracks became just an eyesore. Now, the new path has transformed the tracks into a wonderful addition to Chiayi, and I'm glad to see the city sprucing itself up as a modern urban center."
The new CPC bike and walking path is near Shimin Road, close to the downtown campus of Chiayi University. Bring your bicycle, bring your camera and bring a picnic lunch. The new pedestrian pathway and bicycle path is really something to write home about.