Management of Recreational Open Spaces in Residential Estates in the City of Nairobi: Case Study of Umoja I Estate
The need to effectively manage urban areas and make them good places for habitation cannot be over-emphasized noting the rate at which the world is rapidly urbanizing as more people settle in urban areas more so in developing countries like Kenya. Recreational open space is one of the key social amenities urban residents require for proper livelihood. In view of the declining condition of recreational open spaces in Umoja I estate, this study sought to examine factors that affect utilization of recreational open spaces in U moja I estate, identify key factors that affect the management of recreation open spaces and intervention areas through which the situation can be remedied. The rapid growth of Nairobi city's population has given rise to a number of developmental challenges which include declining quality of recreational open spaces particularly in residential areas of the city such as Umoja I estate. As the city's population grows, the population of Umoja I residential estate which is one the largest in the city is also bound to grow as more settle in this area in search of dwelling places and income generating opportunities. This situation explains the need to improve access and quality of recreational open spaces in this area to be able to fulfill the needs of the local residents. There are about 150,000 people residing in Umoja I study area as reported by the National Population Census of the year 2009, there exists few existing recreational open spaces in Umoja which is considered below the standard requirements for such a population. The study findings indicate that there exist less public recreational open spaces in Umoja I as compared to those which are privately owned by schools, churches or individuals. This contrasts the area of spaces that had been provided by the 1978-79 Master Plan for Umoja Estate which guided the development of the estate. The plan designated several plots to be used as recreational open spaces for use by the residents. The plots had been centrally located for ease of access by all residents. The feedback from field survey indicated that some of the plots originally planned for recreational open spaces had been converted to other uses and developed hence the decline in the number of open recreational open spaces. Furthermore, the condition of existing recreational open spaces in the study area both public and private was found to be poorly maintained and lacked necessary support facilities required to meet the needs of various categories of users. In addition, some of the activities undertaken in the spaces discourage visitors and this include dumping of solid waste, driving lessons, hawking and diversion of traffic. Access to the privately owned recreational open spaces is not limited to those who are unable to pay entry fees. The needs of various categories of users of recreational open spaces who include the disabled, the aged, women and children are not adequately met as there lacks necessary facilities and design considerations to suit their needs. The various stakeholders who include the public and private involved III operating and management of recreational open spaces in the study area lack clear management strategies to guide effective operation and maintenance of the facilities. The City Council Ward offices are not well equipped both financially and with facilities required to properly maintain recreational spaces. On the other hand private operators who include churches and schools invest less in recreational spaces they operate to make them efficient in rendering services to the users. There also lacks an elaborate legal and policy framework to guide the management of recreational open spaces in the study area. The high demand for residential housing in the estate has increased demand for land for development of residential housing and other developments which have more economic returns and this tends to get high preference to conservation of open land for recreational spaces. To respond to the indentified challenges the researcher proposed a framework for effective management of recreational open spaces in the study area. The framework explains approaches and strategies that can be applied in management of open recreational open spaces in Umoja I estate.