Kaya elders in Kwale County have protested the construction of a hotel at a recreational facility at Baraza Park in Kwale town by a private developer.
The elders, who presented their grievances to the National Land Commission Chairman Dr. Mohamed Swazuri, called for intervention to help resolve the matter.
They claimed that the County Government did not consult them over the issue yet they have been the custodians of the park for a long time.
The elders’ Chairman Mr. Hassan Randani said they were opposed to any development taking place at the park as they want to preserve its environmental integrity.
“If we allow this encroachment on the park, other traders will join in and set up their structures hence turn the facility into a marketplace which is not good,” said Mr. Randani.
Dr. Swazuri asked the County Government to reconsider its decision to have the hotel project constructed at the recreational park and promised that the Commission would come up with a lasting solution.
“Give us time we look into the issue and then we will come back to you with a lasting solution,” he said.
He however asked the County Government to be transparent in land matters and to always consult the elders since their advice was needed on such matters to avert conflict.
The elders told the Government to find an alternative site for the hotel that is being constructed allegedly to rehabilitate and convert the area into a modern recreational area.
According to the Executive Committee Member for Community Development and Social Services Mr. Patrick Mutsami, the facility was intended to become a premier public leisure park and a tourist attraction.
Mr. Mutsami and his Lands’ counterpart Mr. Ali Mafimbo refuted claims that the County Government had grabbed the area saying the project was initiated after public participation.
“We sought public views before embarking on the project and the residents agreed that the facility be built there,” Mr. Mafimbo said.
The survival of this rare urban forest is attributed to the conservation effort spearheaded by local elders who have jealously protected it against encroachment.
The park holds different species of indigenous trees of exceptional sizes, diverse shapes and colours turning it into the town’s natural arboretum.
For a long time, it was in a serious state of neglect but the County Government has unveiled a long-term vision to rehabilitate it in order to offer a beautiful and safe place for people to relax.
Paved walkways, picnic lawns, seats and sanitation facilities which were missing are now in place.