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Environmental controversy surrounds new hiking park

Date Posted: 2002-06-13

Okinawafs newest tourist attraction, the Kongou Sekirinzan hiking park near Hedo Point, is embroiled in a dispute between Okinawa Prefecture Environment Section and Nanto World Group that owns the land and operates the park.

Nanto World Group that is best known as the operator of the Gyukusendo Cave and theme park, bought the property 27 years ago, but did not develop is until recently and opened it to the public in March this year. Over 40,000 people have visited the park since its opening.

The area features a steep limestone hill and plenty of exotic trees, caves and limestone formations. It is said that the previously nearly inaccessible site used to be the domain of local shamans who retreated there to consult with spirits.

In 1994 the area was declared a special natural asset and all development was forbidden without a special permit from the government. And that, according to prefecture officials, is exactly what Nanto World Group did not obtain.

Prefecture officials insist that Nanto World must stop all development work in the area and return it to the state it was prior to 1994. They say that the company must dismantle the ticket booth and tear up the hiking paths. They have given the company until July 10 to comply, after which they threaten to take the company to the court. gThe company has cut trees in the area to make hiking paths, constructed a building to sell tickets, and paved a portion of the road they constructed there to begin with, all of which is against the law,h an official at the Okinawa Prefecture Environmental Section said.

Nanto World President Tametsugu Hamasaki insists that therefs no reason to close the park. gOf course we discuss with the prefecture of this matter and will correct any oversight we may have had with our paperwork. But we are not going to close this wonderful area. It belongs to people to enjoy, and we are making it possible."

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