Involve local community in attraction development, Abd Karim tells tourism stakeholders

Abdul Karim (left) visits the Paku Rock Maze Garden. Miro is second from the right.

KUCHING (2 September): Tourism officials and stakeholders must work with local communities and enable them to play a greater role in safeguarding and developing their areas into tourist attractions, said Dato Sri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah .

The Minister for Tourism, Creative Industry and the Performing Arts said that to revitalize any host community and any rural destination, effective partnership and community empowerment is absolutely essential.

“Therefore, well-designed capacity building programs are critically important to rejuvenating many local destinations, especially those in suburban or rural areas,” he said at the Paku Rock’s inauguration. Maze Garden at Bau near here today.

He said that Paku Rock Maze Garden is an example where partnership and community involvement are in action and should be emulated in other rural destinations.

According to him, before Paku Rock Maze Garden was discovered and developed in late 2021, it was simply an undeveloped primitive stone forest with overgrown shrubs behind a Chinese temple.

“Although it is located on the side of the Jalan Kuching-Bau road, no one really knew what was in there except the local community. Even if you used Google Maps to zoom in on the area, you wouldn’t see much because it was all covered in trees.

“When I was told about this place a few months ago, I decided to see it for myself one day. I’m happy to be here today,” he said.

Abdul Karim said he was impressed that the development was not just for the garden itself or to attract more visitors to generate more revenue.

He said responsible tourism initiatives are at the heart of all development and environmental, social and economic aspects are emphasized.

“Decisions are made with the community at center stage. Facilities and infrastructure are gradually being improved to connect visitors to local businesses,” he said.

Based on the names recorded in the guestbook, Abdul Karim said that nearly 5,000 people visited the Paku Rock Maze Garden in June and July this year.

He thought that more than 10,000 people could have visited the garden because not everyone had registered.

“Whatever the actual number, it’s a remarkable achievement,” he said.

Among those present were Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Henry Harry Jinep and Serembu MP Miro Simuh.

According to a biologist and a geologist after a visit to the rockery on August 25, the geological formation appears to be of Late Jurassic to Cretaceous origin and remains to be studied in detail.

“The formation is mainly limestone and represents an ancient marine ecosystem which was later located inland with the retreat of the coastline. Erosion features suggest rivers, possibly flowing through a cave system.

“Extensive groves within the cave walls suggest that several levels of water have persisted. The roof of the cave system appears to have collapsed, forming limestone scree vegetation. Such a landscape incidentally is known to be rich in biodiversity.

“Groups of animals and plants particularly restricted to habitats such as point endemics include aroids, orchids, land snails, crabs and lizards. The next logical step to understanding the landscape would be geological and geomorphological studies as well as biological inventories of these targeted species groups.

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