Nyahururu athletes up in arms over new Marmanet Forest fee

Screen grab of athletes running on the track. Photo/COURTESY

A row is brewing between athletes in Nyahururu and the management of the South Marmanet Forest Station over new regulations to charge the runners training at the facility.

The controversy was sparked after the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) issued a notice to all athletes training in the forests to start paying for accessing them with the runners claiming the charges are dubious and questionable.

They noted for decades, local and international runners have trained at the high altitude forest without charge and are calling for KFS to revoke the new regulations complaining they are exorbitant, uncalled for and meant to drive away runners training in Nyahururu.

KFS through the South Marmanet Forest Station now requires athletes to pay Kshs200 per head per day as means of collecting revenue.

Paul Maina, the athletes’ representative and secretary of the Professional Athletics Association of Kenya (PAAK) in the Aberdare Region said the said the new regulations were uncalled for.

“We have a boss here, who said we should stop to be paying Ksh200. Sports is not a recreation, we have been training in all forests across the country, Ngong Forest, Karura Forest, Arboretum and even down here at Thomson Falls.

“Athletics brings billions of shillings in this country. An athlete comes from humble background and most cannot pay for training,” Maina lamented.

He called on both the County and national Government to intervene and ensure that the status quo remains.

“Since I started training, I’ve been coming here and we found those before us training here. What is shocking is servicemen are exempt from charges but an athlete is asked to pay.

“When we fly out to run for the country, you are not distinguished as a serviceman since we all represent the country. Kipchoge Keino started from here, I met Daniel Komen here and the late Samuel Wanjiru used to train here as well,” an aggrieved runner, Samuel Maina added.

“When we are told we are spoiling the forest, we wonder how since when you go to Eldoret, athletes train at Kaptagat Forest which also belongs to the Government. We have been given a till number, we don’t know whom it belongs to. This is not proper,” he added.

According to the Ecosystem Conservator Mathews Ogutu, this is a requirement by the KFS for every station to look into ways of generating income from available resources.

Ogutu said the charges were targeted for people entering the forests for recreation purposes and hence athletes are not exempted asking those who want to skip paying the fee to apply to the Chief Conservator or the KFS Director for consideration.

He noted that Kenya Defence Forces and the Administration Police officers training in the facility are the only ones not charged but added that there was room for other groups to be included.

Ogutu said the new regulations are also meant to scrutinize people entering the forests to ensure that proper security measures are put into place and also to keep off criminals who may want to take such an advantage to commit crimes.

However, athletes expressed their displeasure claiming this would drive away majority of them.

They lamented that most athletes comes from very humble back grounds and could not afford the hefty charges by the KFS.

They added that, athletics cannot be treated as a recreation, but rather a profession like any other.

They observed that through athletics, Kenya has earned global acclaim and that majority of the winners in the various disciplines do their training in Nyahururu.

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Story By Peter Mwangi
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