Friends of City Park the Ultimate Placemakers!

View of Markhamia trees, and lawns at City Park by cngarachu

On 30th November 2016, colorful paintings appeared on Muindi Mbingu Street. This was the start of placemaking week in Nairobi; a week that celebrated and highlighted the need to appreciate the different desires of people who use public spaces.

Children Skating on Muindi Mbingu Street [Photo: UnHabitat 2016 Placemaking Report]

What is Placemaking?

Placemaking is a collaborative process that inspires people to collectively reimagine and reinvent public spaces. Community-based participation is the heart of an effective placemaking process. Capitalizing on the local community’s available resources, motivation, and aspirations; a good placemaking process results in the creation of quality public spaces that contribute to people’s health, happiness, and well-being.

Key Principles of Placemaking

City Park remains the largest open public space in Nairobi; from inception, key placemaking principles have been at the core of all Friends of City Park (FoCP) operations.

Vision

7th September 2016 saw 230 participants and 80 institutional agencies actively participate in a City Park Stakeholders Forum. This forum, among several other workshops organized by FoCP, has highlighted the fact that the Community is the expert and it is necessary to have a bottom-up approach when it comes to matters of public spaces. It would have been impossible for a cohesive vision to be built, let alone realized, had it not been for the countless advocacy efforts FoCP have been active in over the years, notably:

Madd cartoon in the Daily Nation March 1997
Madd cartoon in the Daily Nation March 1997
  1. Press release in 1996 calling attention to the grabbing of City Park
  2. Gazettement of City Park as a National Monument in 2009
  3. Revocation by the National Land Commission of 14 parcels of City Park land in 2014; deemed illegal or irregularly issued. This was after a Press release by the Friends calling on media to make the general public aware of these developments and the importance of the park to the public.
  4. gazettement of the Mtego wa Panya maze and surrounding green areas in 2016, which became a part of the larger National Monument area of City Park.

Planning

Alia's talk at the Museum
A talk session by Alia Khan a Landscape Architect [Photo: FoCP, 2014]

From the September 2016 workshop, a participatory Strategic Framework and Action Plan for Rehabilitation of City Park was established. The framework is what guides the Friends of City Park board in all activities and decisions. With a framework and action plan in place in 2018 FoCP hosted Mr. Hitesh Mehta and other landscape architects; to discuss how to create a masterplan for the rehabilitation of the Park to its former glory. These discussions resulted in the development of a concept master plan. This plan was one of the tools used by a taskforce that had been set up by the Cabinet Secretary of Environment, Mr. Keriako Tobiko, in 2020, in efforts of Developing a Comprehensive Plan for Restoration of City Park.

Sustainability

The Friends have always appreciated the need to involve children and youth in all plans and actions in order to ensure the sustainable realization of the restoration of the Park. The founders of FoCP were individuals who had fond memories of playing in the Park as children and hence our motto: We Exist to Ensure City Park Exists for Future Generations. Friends of City Park recognizes the importance of including children and highlighting their rights concerning the Park. This has been exercised through many events including:

  1. Workshops held in Kibera, Kasarani, Deep Sea slum, and Westlands schools, with students aged 7-16yrs; in a bid to try and understand how children think about the public spaces.
  2. From Treasure Hunts to Hackathons; from Primary Schools to Universities, the Friends of City Park are never short of ideas on how to engage youth and children.
Kids at one treasure hunt activity by cngarachu
Pupils from City Primary taking on a challenge during the Treasure Hunt [Photo: FoCP, 2013]

We are grateful to the many partnerships we have had with different groups and individuals; without them we would not have been able to realize most of the accomplishments seen over the years. Most notable partners include the National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi City County Government, Kenya Horticultural Society and many more.

We are turning a shared vision into a reality by taking small but bold steps, listening, and discovering what works best. We welcome you to join us on this journey.

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by: Karimi Kimathi

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