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Rizhao in E China improves greenway construction to bring greater sense of happiness to residents

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Cycling enthusiasts ride on a bridge along the Sunny Coast Greenway in Rizhao, east China's Shandong province.
Cycling enthusiasts ride on a bridge along the Sunny Coast Greenway in Rizhao, east China's Shandong province.

By Li Rui

Along the sunny coast of Rizhao city in east China’s Shandong province, bordering the Yellow Sea, there is a scenic greenway that stretches 28 kilometers long. Hugging the shoreline, it weaves through mountains, forests, and villages. To locals, it is not only a scenic route, but a route to happiness.

On a morning, Li Xiaoshu and her friends from a cycling club set off from a square in Donggang district of Rizhao, biking northward along the greenway, which is known as the Sunny Coast Greenway.

They stopped to admire the vast sea at the Wanpingkou scenic area and visited an ocean aesthetics museum on Taigong Island, marveling at the breathtaking scenery along the way.

Continuing onwards, they rode into a towering metasequoia forest. “We just arrived at the ‘forest oxygen bar,'” Li said, calling this her favorite spot – the Rizhao Seaside National Forest Park.

Over 300 tree species like metasequoias, black pines, and oriental oaks flourish in the park, covering 78 percent of its area. Besides, the park is also a habitat for more than 200 bird species, including azure-winged magpie.

Li’s destination was Wulian Mountain. After passing through the Liangcheng Estuary National Wetland Park, the cycling group switched to another greenway – the Mountain and Sea Scenery Greenway. 

Relevant authorities have worked to interconnect the Sunny Coast Greenway with the Mountain and Sea Scenery Greenway into a 61.8-kilometer route, which is adorned with mountains, sea, rural guesthouses, and villages.

As a Rizhao native, Li recalled how different this greenway looked years ago. “The shoreline was dotted with shabby houses and aquaculture ponds. The vegetation wasn’t this lush, and there was no spot worth a stop,” she told People’s Daily.

Striking a balance between conservation and development, Rizhao has launched a coast enhancement project to restore its coastlines in recent years, and kicked off the development of the Sunny Coast Greenway.

According to Zhang Bo, an urban planner at Rizhao Planning and Design Institute Group Co., Ltd., no natural landscape was changed during the development of the Sunny Coast Greenway, which started five years ago, in attempt to reduce interference with nature to the absolute minimum and maximize protection of the natural environment. 

Besides, ecologically vulnerable areas were prioritized for restoration and enhancement, with an aim to preserve the integrity of the marine ecosystem as much as possible, Zhang added.

Rizhao Xinghai Construction and Development Co., Ltd. also joined the development of the Sunny Coast Greenway. According to the company’s chairman Qin Xujian, over 10 expert meetings were organized to determine the materials to be used for an important section of the greenway as the construction began, and ceramic granular material was finally selected as it reduces vibration caused by cycling and well blends into the surrounding environment.

In the Taigong Island Park, the slopes on both sides of the greenway are covered by oyster shells. The entire greenway keeps natural undulation, while the intersections are designed with curved and user-friendly features that allow for barrier-free access for wheelchairs and strollers. A total of 27,000 trees and 280,000 shrubs have been planted along the route, expanding the green area by 490,000 square meters.

Zhang said that every aspect of the greenway was meticulously planned, from quality and safety to ecological conservation, and from the linkage of scenic spots to landscape design, which resulted in a vivid portrayal of harmonious coexistence between human and nature.

“It feels good to ride a bicycle on the greenway to my office, to go home, and to have fun. It gives me a sense of happiness and improves my living quality,” Li said.

The greenway not only brings lasting happiness to people’s lives but also paves a new path for the city’s green development. Authorities in Rizhao have introduced a series of cultural and tourism projects based on the Sunny Coast Greenway, which have gained increasing popularity. According to statistics, Rizhao received 53.33 million tourist visits last year, generating tourism revenue of 35.37 billion yuan ($4.97 billion).

The Sunny Coast Greenway, built according to world-class standards, has emerged as a prime location to hold hiking, cycling and other sporting events. In 2023, more than 90 provincial and higher-level competitions took place there, helping the city embark on a development path that leverages sports, culture and tourism sectors.

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