Naledi Sande Lifestyle Reporter
Picnicking is a well-known staple activity of socialising.
From casual lunches and barbecues with close friends and colleagues to a long day out for a family reunion, picnics provide an easygoing environment to catch up and entertain all kinds of company.
Spending time outdoors, basking in nature, breathing fresh air and enjoying a great view.
Good old days, picnics and parks where inseparable. Parks are protected areas, planted with trees and ornamental plants, and are intended for human recreation.
Parks were also known as lover’s paradise where couples picnicked and had time to bond with each other.
Benches and picnic tables are free to be used by anyone, usually placed under trees that serve as natural shade.
The idea is still there but many things have overshadowed the real meaning of parks and picnicking.
While city parks are always packed with citizens, most people are resorting to the popular braai where everyone has to bring is a pack of meat and drinks.
However, some people are still indebted to the parks though they are now few because of different reasons.
“I love coming to the park because it is the only place in the city center to sit down and have a conversation with my loved one. Restaurants and movies are not so comfortable plus they are expensive,” said one Felix.
Another couple chatting at the Africa Unity Square said that parks are good places to go to with family.
“They are good places to relax with family or as a couple. Greenwood Park is one park that kids can play on the swings and all.”
Picnics are known to be quite inexpensive. All one has to do is prepare meals at home and head out to a park or picnic area.
“I like winding down at the park. No pressure of money to buy expensive food. I can just pack a basket of food,” said a lady called Kudzai.
Going to parks means less travelling for leisure activity. Some people love to go outdoors but do not enjoy traveling.
On the other hand, picnics at the park have also become a culture that is heading to its extinction.
“I would not go to the park for a picnic because these are places for those that cannot afford restaurants and a drive-away,” a young man who identified himself as Lionel said.
He added that some of these parks are left dirty and are a home for the homeless.
“They are usually filthy and homeless people are seen sleeping everywhere, in particular Africa Unity Square and Harare Gardens. I can only go to a park when there are artistes performing not just for a picnic. Other than that I prefer forest walks.”
Some city parks are cleaned on a regular basis. The ones that are not cleaned by the local government are usually polluted with trash.
Susan Choto suggested that picnics are mostly for the affluent hence picnic spots are popular at low-density suburbs.
“Very nice parks to have picnics at are at the low-density areas like Kingfisher. People from the ghetto do not have the resources and time for picnics,” she said.
Lesley Makina said: “Growing up, parks were the in thing. People would actually go and enjoy themselves. Now it is more of a meeting place like ‘I’m waiting for you at the park’. It is no longer a recreational place. The focus has shifted to other things such as clubs.”
He added, “People are now ashamed to be seen at parks chilling with their loved ones.”
According to a survey carried out by this publication, most people who frequent the park these days are house maids and gardeners.
Also, some new-to-the-city couples are seen everyday taking photos at Africa Unity Square.
Some people said it a backward activity to be seen taking pictures at the city parks.
“I do not see why I should go to the park to take pictures when I can do that with my smartphone at our backyard at home,” said one Trish from Borrowdale.
It seems picnic culture is dying because so much has come around to replace it.
This joins the category of going to the movie house which has fast lost its essence.
People can enjoy watching a movie on Netflix and DStv or rather download the movie on the internet and watch any other time.
It seems people nowadays are using the parks as a place where they can go and study especially students from the colleges that are around town.
They do this during exam times and are seen having discussions in the park.
While in other countries, people have yoga or exercises at the park, what we see in Zimbabwean parks are people laying on their backs and of cause multiple photographers waiting for people who want some shots.
In the high density areas, parks that used to be well maintained have now become football fields where youths gather around for a football match after school.
They have dilapidated and no longer have the playground equipment or resources for people to entertain themselves.
Slide, swing set, tire swing, monkey bars, sandbox, see-saw are all things we used to enjoy playing with whenever we visited the park while growing up.
Now, one will not be surprised to find that a local resident has turned it into a field and have planted corn.
Some have also become worship shrines for the Apostolic faith sects that hang their flags to mark their territory.
City of Harare spokesperson, Michael Chideme, however, said all parks are functioning the way they are supposed to.
“There is no park right now that is defunct.
“Everything is well with our parks in Harare,” he said.
Dismissing picnic culture because of parks is unjust.
Some have their picnics at other nice getaway places. These include Lake Chivero and Cleveland Dam while others prefer the thickness of a forest for a picnic.
In coastal countries more people enjoy picnics at the beach. Endless golden sands offer space for the family even on the busiest of days.
Other parks are used as wedding venues the examples of which are Highlands Park, Mukuvisi Woodlands and Harare Gardens.