Bridge plan for perilous river crossing stalls

A man crosses the Disa River upriver from the drift, which was flooded last week after heavy rain.

Municipal red tape has deluged a plan for a bridge to replace a hazardous Hout Bay drift.

Bethal Crossing is a concrete drift across the Disa River used by people working in the Hout Bay valley. They use the drift between Main Road and Valley Road to get to places of work and then return home along that way to Imizamo Yethu.

But the route becomes treacherous when the river swells from heavy rains, as it did last week. Some hop from one boulder to another to cross the river while others wrap their shoes in plastic bags and wade through the water.

Ward councillor Roberto Quintas said he was “bitterly disappointed” that the project to build a bridge from Polywood, a form of recycled plastic, had been put on hold yet again.

The issue goes back to the City’s 2021/2 financial year when R350 000 was allocated from Mr Quintas’s R1 million ward budget for a bridge that would allow people to cross the river “safely and with dignity“.

The project got sign-off and should have been completed by September last year, he said. But the bridge failed to materialise.

Mr Quintas said he had pursued the issue and had learnt in February that the cost of the project had risen, no tenders had been issued and the funding had been cancelled from his ward allocation.

Mr Quintas said he had alerted mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis who had agreed to find a way to make the project happen, possibly by using funding from the City’s recreation and parks department.

Mr Hill-Lewis said he had called on officials to expedite the process and the progress was being monitored.

Jackie Whales, the chairwoman of the Friends of the Hout Bay Rivers, said residents had long called for a bridge as the drift was both unsuitable and dangerous as a river crossing.

“In winter, this is either impassable or you would get your feet wet. As many of the people who use this crossing are people on their way to work, it is obviously very inconvenient or dangerous to cross in winter,” she said.

When the Sentinel viewed the drift, after heavy rain overnight on Wednesday April 26, we watched a man jumping from boulder to boulder to cross the swiftly flowing river.

Ms Whales said horse riders, cyclists, walkers and runners also used the path.

“We suggested a softer approach with stepping stones, which still allows flow, but the City decided on a bridge – I guess from a safety aspect. From an environmental point of view, I am looking forward to less plastic bags being left there. People used them to cover their feet.”

Ms Whales said she hoped the bridge would be aesthetically sensitive to the surroundings.

Mayoral committee member for community services and health Patricia van der Ross said the City’s recreation and parks department had appointed a contractor to draft plans for the bridge and the site had been inspected to find a suitable spot for it.

However, she could not say when the bridge would actually be built.

Nearby businesses and the Hout Bay Residents’ and Ratepayers’ did not respond to requests for comment by deadline.

The route becomes treacherous when the river swells from heavy rains as it did last week.
Bethal Crossing is a concrete drift across the Disa River between Main Road and Valley Road used by horse riders, cyclists, walkers, runners and workers.