Preserving River Nature Park

* Jackie Whales, chairperson of the Friends of the Rivers of Hout Bay, at the Hout Bay River Nature Park which this group is working to protect from alien vegetation and future developers.

Hout Bay’s River Nature Park and plans to permanently conserve the area’s river environments have been endorsed by ward councillor Rob Quintas, key City of Cape Town (CoCT) executives and other interested members of the community.

Terry Murphy, chairperson of the Hout Bay Rivers Catchment Forum (HBRCF), told the Sentinel the key objective of these plans is to conserve and safeguard the Hout Bay River Corridor from developers (“Nature park on the cards”, Sentinel News, March 1).

“We want to ensure that the beautiful Hout Bay River Corridor from the river mouth to the area just above the Longkloof Weir abutting the Orange Kloof are preserved forever, from the encroachments of developers and from the adverse impacts of invasive alien vegetation and from pollution of the river.”

According to Mr Murphy the area above Longkloof is managed by SANParks which already has various legal obligations to preserve and maintain. But now the Hout Bay Nature Park, will hopefully receive the same preservation treatment.

“The next critical step to securing this area, is establishing a Biodiversity Agreement with Cape Nature which will lead to formal protection of the area. The good news is that the Biodiversity Management Branch, CoCT has agreed to actively work with us.

“Our hope is to create a safe location for Hout Bay families and to encourage guided tours for locals and visitors with recreation area walks, picnic facilities, and projects such as bird hides. And we are very keen to encourage local schools to participate in restoring indigenous growth which will encourage their knowledge and interest in our natural environment.”

Mayco member for spatial planning and environment, Marian Nieuwoudt, lauded the project and its intended results. “This is a unique project with many positive spinoffs. Its success is linked to the importance of partnerships. While the plan was adopted in principle at a special meeting organised by the HBRCF, it is not intended to have it officially approved within the City’s structures. It is an initiative of the catchment management department of the City of Cape Town to discuss pertinent issues of the Hout Bay River Catchment. It includes various line departments and civil society members, friends groups and Civic Associations.”

Ms Nieuwoudt also said that while there isn’t City funding available for this project, ideas to source funding were tabled at this meeting.

Another group instrumental in the preservation of the Hout Bay Nature Park, situated on Mountain Close between Manchester Road and Victor Street, is the Friends of the Rivers of Hout Bay (FORHB).

The FORHB is a group of 25 volunteers who work tirelessly to conserve the nature park and wetlands, which comprises an area of about three square kilometres), with a focus on keeping alien vegetation out of the area.

FORHB chairperson Jackie Whales said while fighting alien vegetation was but one of the many challenges they faced, it was the greatest.

“We’re now working on biodiversity nodes, tackling various areas across the park. The idea is for the entire park to have all indigenous plants, so while removing the alien vegetation we’re planting the correct indigenous vegetation to create a pocket of biodiversity which will attract wildlife, birdlife and hopefully spread.

“Ideally we’d have at least two gardeners in the park, who we’ll train to identify and protect the indigenous plants, and remove the alien plants. But for that we need funding.”

Ms Whales added that the FORHB was building a butterfly garden near Princess Bridge.

“We’re planting specific plants to attract butterflies and hence create a butterfly garden. This, and all our other projects in the park are being undertaken in conjunction with the Invasive Species Unit, but we are largely dependent on our own funds, which are currently from private donations.

“A positive aspect of the process that now CoCT has adopted our ideas into a CoCT project which means funding could be made available to us in the future.”

Ms Whales, however, pointed out that funding and alien vegetation were not the only challenges FORHB faced.

“Many people use the park’s bushes for or defecating, which isn’t good for the plants. Ideally the CoCT will look into creating proper sewage and ablution facilities for the Imizamo Yethu community. Often times, stormwater will cause the faeces to run into the wetlands to the detriment of the park and its plants. ”

Ms Whales also encouraged the public to stop buying lilies from vendors selling them along the road and at the traffic lights.

“These illegal lily sellers are taking around 200 lilies from wetlands each day. That means that eventually there won’t be anymore lilies since they won’t be able to make seedlings.”

Mr Quintas praised FORHB and HBRCF’s efforts and said he would help them to secure City funding.

“The establishment of an integrated rivers and nature walk and park is an excellent opportunity to showcase some of the natural beauty of Hout Bay. As such I have lent my support to the collaborative initiative and proposal and have already looked at ways whereby the Hout Bay River Walk Project can be revisited to allow for an inclusion of the vlei. I believe that relevant directorates are supportive of the idea, which could potentially see us as the City and myself as the ward councillor tap into budgets and utilise seedlings and plants from projects earmarked by partners beautify Hout Bay’s riverine surrounds and waterways.”

To support FORHB’s conservation efforts, contact Jackie Whales at gis@vp3.co.za