• Conservationists on Wednesday said the Koroga Festival set for February 14-15 will significantly damage the park’s biodiversity.
• Six tourists and a guide died on September 2 when the were washed away by flash floods in a gorge.
The Hell’s Gate National Park is again at the centre of controversy, this time over a Valentine's Day Love festival next month.
Conservationists have blamed the Kenya Wildlife Service for being after money.
On Wednesday conservationists said the Koroga Festival set for February 14 and 15 will significantly damage the park’s biodiversity.
In 2018, plans for a permanent amusement park in the geologically active area were quashed after an uproar; critics said it would because it would spoil the natural beauty.
Last September seven people were trapped and drowned, including six tourists and a guide, in flash floods in the volcanic caverns, a popular tourist attraction. That killer Ol-Jorowa Gorge has been closed.
The latest draw, a Valentine's Love Editon festival, was denounced for bad taste and environmental damage as soon as planners announced the venue. It would be held above ground.
The Kenya Wildlife Service has dismissed concerns raised.
“Over the years, we have held more than 20 successful events in the park including To Hell's Gate on a Wheelbarrow and Safaricom Jazz Festival without significant damage to the biodiversity in the park,” KWS said in a statement.
KWS said Hell's Gate is an activity-based conservation and recreation facility renowned for cycling, rock climbing, horse riding, camping, walking, sightseeing and event hosting.
“The park has sites designed for hosting events where insecurity and disturbance to wildlife are minimised. We also have clear regulations for the event organisers including timing, noise levels and clean-up after events,” KWS said.
KWS said that as part of sustainability and mitigation of ecological footprints, some funds raised from events at the park are ploughed back to support conservation and community development.
"As guardians of Kenya's national parks, we assure the public of our utmost commitment to maintaining the ecological integrity of these conservation and recreation facilities," KWS said.
Community leaders and environmentalists said the seven deaths could have been avoided if safety measures and early warning signs were in place. the gorge has never been reopened.
In 2012, seven youths drowned while visiting a popular gorge in the park.
The Hell's Gate park which is named for the intense geothermal activity within its boundaries has spectacular scenery, including the Devil's Kitchen, which is hot underfoot.
The landscape is mostly scrubby scenery with an occasional zebra or two.
But the scenery also includes the towering cliffs, water-gouged gorges, stark rock steam chimneys, scrub-clad volcanoes and belching plumes of harnessed geothermal steam, making this one of the most atmospheric parks in Africa.
Hell’s Gate is a short day' trip from Nairobi where, in addition to the bio-diversity that includes raptors, visitors can enjoy mountain biking, rock climbing and a natural spa.
(Edited by V. Graham)