Bukit Kiara park closed until new SOP is in place

Taman Persekutuan Bukit Kiara will remain closed throughout the Conditional Movement Control Order period despite calls to give access to the public.

The park, which is under the jurisdiction of the National Landscape Department, has been off limits since the start of the Movement Control Order on March 18.

Although some parks in Kuala Lumpur are now accessible to the public, the department says it is not the right time for Taman Persekutuan Bukit Kiara.

Reason: There is concern that too many visitors will make it difficult to observe physical distancing.

Department Director for Federal Parks Mariam Zainal said before the MCO came into effect, the park used to get 6,000 to 7,000 visitors daily.

“We know that people enjoy coming here as the facilities like the jogging track are well-maintained,” she said.

“We have prepared a standard operating procedure (SOP) and recommended (among others) that only 50 people be allowed in during a given period (two hours). This proposal needs to be approved by the Housing and Local Government Ministry.”.

The department had placed several postings on its Facebook page and at the main entrance stating that the park will remain closed throughout the MCO.

Mariam said despite the notice and the gates being closed, people had been trespassing in the early days of the MCO and even during the Conditional MCO period.

“We know who they are. We have even taken them to the police station. It is a concern as they were in the park and were not adhering to social distancing rules.

“The gates have been closed, yet they find their way in … some have even cut the fencing to get in.”

Mariam also said although there is a team of 12 security people at any given time, trespassers using illegal routes (lorong tikus) don’t seem to pay heed to warnings by the guards.

She described the trespassers as “quite stubborn”, with some entering the park after closing time at 7pm before the MCO.

“The fencing and gates have been repaired but it can be difficult to keep an eye over the vast area of 400 acres,” Mariam said.

She also confirmed the two incidents at North Kiara on May 20 as reported by Twentytwo13. A man was injured and another died while hiking in an area which was not under the department’s jurisdiction.

Brickfields police chief ACP Zairulnizam Mohd Zainuddin @ Hilmi said police were awaiting a report from the Chemistry Department to determine the cause of death of the man who was in his 30s.

Trails Association of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor (TRAKS) vice-president Scott Roberts said social distancing is a huge problem.

“My heart goes out to the National Landscape Department but we need to figure out a way how to balance this,” Roberts said.

“How do people practise social distancing on a single track in an area which has multiple entry points? We are not good at social distancing.”

Roberts, an avid mountain biker and former trail runner who has been active in the area for the past 25 years, said it would be better if the department engaged with the local community, including TRAKS, to find a solution to ensure social distancing when the park re-opens.

“We have not heard from the department on any SOP as there has been no active engagement,” he said, adding the local community would be able to provide insights on a workable SOP given the volume of visitors.

Regarding trespassers, Roberts said it remains a grey matter as the area has yet to be gazetted as a park.

“There are seven access points. There is no way you can control them all and the park has yet to be gazetted.”

The gate connecting North Kiara to Taman Persekutuan Bukit Kiara is locked.

C.K. Lee, a hiker, said while he understands the situation, it is frustrating not being able to hike in Taman Persekutuan Bukit Kiara.

“Hiking is not a group activity and as long as people keep their distance, it should be fine,” Lee said.

He added there are not many trails on the North Kiara side unlike Taman Persekutuan Bukit Kiara which ranges in difficulty levels.

“The roads are also nice and paved and it is my choice.”

Chong Yoke Mei, an avid jogger and Zumba enthusiast, misses jogging in Taman Persekutuan Bukit Kiara. She, however, said people should abide by the law.

“I have been going to the park for over 15 years but I am law-abiding and I feel people can instead exercise at home,” she said, adding it is better to be safe than sorry.

Yesterday, Kuala Lumpur City Hall announced that Taman Tasik Titiwangsa will be closed indefinitely as too many people were visiting the park since the loosening of restrictions under the CMCO.

According to City Hall, some even had picnics which are not permissible while others had cut the yellow tape around the playground area which is out of bounds to public.