A project was born almost 20 years ago – a small committee of Nairobi residents met to initiate a residents community group for City Park known as the Friends of City Park.
City Park comprises a recreational area in Parklands, Nairobi, set aside in the early 1900s that quickly became an essential part of Nairobi’s heritage. Being a sizeable urban park, City Park has a beautiful forest remnant, formal gardens, and important historic features. Indeed many senior residents of Nairobi have fond memories of bowling at the Bowling Green, enjoying the Salvation Army bands at the Bandstand, and getting lost in the English style ‘maze’ (mtego wa panya in Swahili). Though reduced in size (now being about 60 hectares), and having lost some of its former shine and luster, City Park retains its charm and is, in the fast growing capital city of Kenya, of great importance.
Since 1996 when the Friends of City Park found that the park was subject to numerous attempted land grabs, we have protested and moved, time and again, against the conversion of any part of this public utility by private developers.
Creating awareness and advocating for action
Our first actions to wake up Nairobi to the real possibility of losing their park included taking a full-page ad in the Daily Nation newspaper in December 1996, showing for the first time, the extent of the encroachment. Subsequently we worked with reporters and others, to have the park featured severally in the media. Over the years, at each instance of land grab, we have as necessary had dialogue with different Mayors and Town Clerks, the National Environment and Management Authority, and the National Museums – rallying and engaging these and other municipal and government offices to prevent lose of land.
Raising awareness, being a watchdog group, and championing City Park remains to this day an essential role for the Friends of City Park.
Land Survey and the gazette of City Park as a National Monument
In 2008 the Friends of City Park commissioned a land survey as an essential part of the baseline information required to establish the boundaries of the Park. This helped to give a better understanding of the exact land situation. We were also able to call for the gazette of the whole park as a heritage site by the National Museums of Kenya. Indeed, we were instrumental in helping the National Museums to gazette 60 hectares of City Park as a National Monument (Legal NOTICE No. 130, Sept 2009). More recently we have written, and met with the National Lands Commission, to go over the parcels of land listed for review in the Public notice published in the Daily Nation on 10 July 2013.
Identifying more than 1000 species of plants and animals
City Park consists of gardens, highland dry evergreen forest, riverine and grass areas, rich in trees, plants, birds, insects, invertebrates and mammals. The Friends of City Park undertook a biodiversity survey – with scientists from the National Museum, which identified more than 1000 species of flora and fauna. This confirmed City Park as an important natural habitat – providing a unique opportunity for residents, including young people, to interact with nature.
In a city with a population of 4 million people, and having one of the fastest urban growth rates, the biodiversity at City Park is a treasure that the residents of Nairobi need to treasure and safeguard.
Moving towards a fresh start and revitalizing of City Park
We are very grateful at the greater attention, and support that City Park is currently receiving from the Lands Commission. The Lands Commission is an Independent government Commission established by the Constitution of Kenya to manage public land on behalf of the national and county governments. Our hope is that the Land Commission can finally free City Park of all encumbrances for present and future generations of Nairobi residents.
The Friends of City Park also are active in encouraging peoples’ contact, and value of City Park. The Friends published the first City Park guide book, and facilitate opportunities with nature walks, gardening, school and corporate activities.
Your part in the future of City Park
The Friends remain a voluntary group of residents from different backgrounds and professions, with the shared interest in securing a brighter more glorious future for City Park and its users. Our vision is that every Nairobi resident has access to green space, and we exist to ensure that at City Park this remains a reality.
If you are a resident of Nairobi we need your support – do not hesitate to join our mailing list (enter your email address here at the top of the right sidebar) or start your subscription with a small donation. Every individual, and any amount, large or small, goes a long way in helping us in our work of protecting, and enhancing City Park for people and nature.
The Friends of City Park is a project of Nature Kenya