The study of protected area downgrading and downsizing (PADD) in Africa has largely been confined to rustic and nature reserves outside urban boundaries. This study addresses the gap in research practice and puts a focus on urban public parks, a reference to Harare Gardens, located within central Harare. The case study of this important park engaged the political ecology lenses as a basis for understanding the significance of public parks in urban environments. Operationalization of the study involved interviews with various stakeholders including the city officials and experts in urban planning and conservation, as well as observations and examination of published documents. Several lessons and observations are made. First, downsizing is mainly a result of increasing demand for urban land in Harare, which seems to be exhausted. Second, downscaling was explained through eco-development where the City of Harare sought to maximize on land-use. Third, the rationale for the PADD of Harare Gardens has been mainly for selfish reasons by individuals who manipulate the land market in Harare and subsequently benefit from the process. Fourth, politics takes a central role in influencing the occurrence of PADD in Zimbabwe that has been the case with Harare Gardens. Our findings suggest that the decision to downsize Harare Gardens was largely politically driven considering that such occurrences have been on-going in the city and led to the downsizing and downgrading of other protected areas such as wetlands.

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