Hong Kong’s only environmental educational centre that is jointly funded and run by the government and one of the city’s universities will soon close to the public, with access to its 130-year-old heritage bungalow and gardens closed from March 10.
According to a February 10 message posted to Lung Fu Shan Environmental Education Centre (LFSEEC) social media accounts, the closure marks “a New Page, a Temporary Goodbye.” Comments beneath the posts on Facebook and Instagram expressed sadness and shock over the announcement.
“We, the team at the centre, have been incredibly lucky,” the post reads. “In these 15 years, we have had the opportunity to share the experience of living harmoniously with nature in this beautiful bungalow, filled with memories over a century and nestled right in the lively abundance of the hill.”
Located a stone’s throw from the start of the popular Morning Trail on the fringes of Lung Fu Shan Country Park, the centre has made the most of its position, leading guided eco-tours of its surroundings, where 130 bird species and 110 species of butterfly have been recorded. It has also promoted the practice of shirin yoku – or forest bathing – taking groups into the park to encourage people to build a connection with nature.
At the time of writing, all upcoming activities were fully booked.
The buildings at LFSEEC date back to the 1890s and once served as quarters for watchmen and staff employed by the city’s first reservoir, Pok Fu Lam Reservoir. In 2008, the Grade 1 listed West Point Filters Bungalow and Grade 2 Two West Point Filter’s Workmen’s Quarters were revitalised and converted into the environmental education centre.
“Both the centre and our surroundings have undergone significant changes, and environmental education has evolved in ways we would not imagine possible,” the Facebook post read. “At this juncture, we announce with a heart full of gratitude: the centre and the team are on the precipice of something new.”
While allusions are made to it not being a permanent closure, the social media posts provide no details about what may be next for LFSEEC or its historic site. The centre’s website bears a similar message, saying: “The temporary closure will allow the historic buildings to take a breather from constant use and prepare for future endeavours in environmental education.” It links to the Facebook post announcing its imminent closure.
Responding to enquiries from HKFP, a spokesperson from the Environment and Ecology Bureau said on behalf of the government and HKU that the centre was “a project jointly funded by the Environmental Protection Department and the University of Hong Kong to promote environmental protection and nature conservation, as well as to encourage the public to lead a sustainable lifestyle.” The project “will complete in March 2023,” they added.
“After the closure of the physical centre, the HKU will continue to maintain the LFSEEC website and the social media platform for on-going dissemination of related education information.”
Hongkongers with an interest in conservation can still visit education centres run by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department or EPD-run recycling stations, the spokesperson added.
LFSEEC was opened by then-environment chief Edward Yau on April 16, 2008.
Speaking at the inauguration ceremony, Yau said the centre “open[ed] a door to the greener part of our city.”
“We see nature conservation as a vital and integral part of our environmental policy,” Yau said, adding that the centre was “a clear demonstration of how nature conservation can climb new heights through government/public body cooperation.”
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