With a unanimous vote of support from the Eastern District Council this week, all four Hong Kong Island district councils have now reached a historic consensus to bridge gaps in Hong Kong Island’s coastline paths to create a continuous 65km walkable route around the entire island.
The Hong Kong Island Coastal Trail is the brainchild of Southern District district councillor Paul Zimmerman, whose thinktank Designing Hong Kong is leading the project and had presented to Southern, Eastern, Wan Chai and Central & Western district councils for approval. The Eastern vote gives the final seal of approval for the coastal path to get serious government attention.
“This is the first time that four district councils agree, and unanimously – nothing opposing … so this should give a lot of confidence to government that this project has great support,” says Zimmerman.
Zimmerman says much of the proposed path already exists but there are around 20 “missing links” that need to be stitched up: three of those, he says, are essential, including a path through the Museum of Coastal Defence, a path from Cape D’Aguilar Road to Shek O Main Beach and a path from South Bay over the ridge to Chung Hom Kok Road.
With the essentials only, and a general “tarting up” of the route, Zimmerman estimates a continuous path can be created for around HK$100 million. “If we have the ‘nice-to-haves’ then we’re looking at HK$500 million,” he says. “It’s not a lot, it would be a fantastic pathway around the whole of Hong Kong Island.”
In May this year, Designing Hong Kong surveyed the public over potential improvements to the path: over 80% of 1,200 people surveyed supported all 20 “missing link” upgrades proposed, including a pathway through Shun Tak Centre, removal of the gates at Waterfall Bay, and building a promenade at China Merchants Wharf.
Zimmerman walked the entire route himself over the Easter holidays, taking three days to test it out for himself, although he says he also regularly walks sections from Stanley to Chai Wan or Kennedy Town to Stanley. “It’s a diverse route, you’ve got industrial areas, you’ve got natural shoreline, special scientific interest, you’ve got the strange and colourful boulevard waterfronts in Central, there’s restaurants, so an enormous variety of experiences. There’s even places you can sleep, you could plan a staycation, sleep in North Point and Stanley.”
‘The most beautiful part, says Zimmerman, is that most people living on Hong Kong Island are only a stone’s throw from the coast. “Everybody on Hong Kong Island can reach this path easily. You just walk down to the waterfront, and then you go left or right and you can go as long as you want!”
Under the existing segmented trail, several sections are not easily accessible: a few broken links require crawling on all fours along a pig track or bouldering along rocky streams. But when completed, almost all of the trail would be accessible for all ages and abilities, says Zimmerman, with the exception of two steep step sections at Shek O and Big Wave Bay.
Zimmerman now plans to get specific proposals in front of government departments, from Highways and Transport to Home Affairs and Agricultural, Fisheries & Conservation. “We’ve also asked the Tourism Commission whether or not they’d be excited about putting signposts up,” he says.