After 15 years at the helm, it’s time for Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) manager Paddy Gordon to move to greener, wetter pastures. From July 1 he will be managing Garden Route National Park.
It’s not a first move for him, as he was previously park manager at Richtersveld and Mountain Zebra National Park in the Eastern Cape, which has helped him manage the complexities of running a park like Table Mountain.
“This park is so different to others,” says Paddy. “There are no fences – except for Cape Point – and most visitors use the park for recreational purposes like mountain biking, hiking, dog-walking, paragliding and climbing.
“The visitor’s mindset is therefore different – there’s a greater sense of entitlement and ownership, as well as keeping the numerous powerful stakeholders happy.”
From the felling of the pines in Tokai and Cecilia Forest, where he lives, to adding more than 1 000 hectares of conserved land, the park being named one of the new natural seven wonders of the world, proclamation of a marine protected area and Table Mountain world heritage status, to managing big fires of 2000 and 2015, these are a few of the things he has experienced.
Another was the challenge of safety, what with muggings and even a death, and this is why he developed the park’s visitor safety programme.
Paddy has always focused on building on Table Mountain’s slogan of “A park for all, forever”, and on each of these elements: conservation, people and sustainability but without losing sight of the park’s primary functions, such as protecting and preserving the Cape Floral Kingdom.
The transfer is in keeping with SANParks policy of moving around its managers so they gain experience in different parks.
* As of Friday July 1, Lesley-Ann Meyer, who is currently area manager of Tsitsikamma Section, Garden Route National Park, will take up the reins of TMNP.