Upgrade opens way for recreation

Residents behind the United Park of Hout Bay are preparing to roll out the next phase of the project following the successful upgrade to the Main Road-Princess Avenue traffic circle, which has opened a new road for recreational activities, as well as, a section of land for outdoor exercise equipment.

In addition, the children’s play park below the Kronendal Primary School fields is set for a complete overhaul in January next year and will see new equipment, platforms, ladders and wooden seating introduced for younger children between the ages of one and 10.

The United Park of Hout Bay is a co-operative between the City and various interest groups. To date, the City has contributed some R240000 towards the new play park and hundreds of thousands towards the road change.

While there is still uncertainty about the establishment of a community day clinic on Hout Bay Common, residents who, for the past 30 months, have driven the United Park plan, believe the latest developments auger well for ambitions for a greater Hout Bay Open Space Network – a route running from United Park along the Hout Bay River and Main Road to the Hout Bay Sports Fields and back again.

This week, one of the residents behind the campaign, local physiotherapist Julia Gane, took Sentinel News on a tour of the United Park precinct, explaining many of the initiatives that are being undertaken.

One of the key features she identified will be the “river meander and nature play” section at the top of the Common starting on Darling Street.

Since April, this river corridor area has been cleared extensively of invasive plants species and vegetation that blocked the view of the river.

Jemimah Birch, the Kronendal Primary librarian and local environmental champion, said the idea was to make the space more accessible to visitors.

“You couldn’t see the river before, but Thrive, Kronendal Enviroclub and members of the public have been clearing invasive plant species and opening up the space so that there is a clear view across the terrain (important for safety).

“Thrive and the scouts have installed the first phase of a biodiversity garden and Thrive now maintains that section and the food garden at the community centre. It is going to be a challenge keeping newly planted fynbos alive during current Level 3 water restrictions, so we do ask that members of the public who walk with a bottle of water to put a little on any plants in the park that seem particularly thirsty,” she said.

Another undertaking planned for the park is a City of Cape Town learn-to-swim programme at the Kronendal Primary swimming pool. The school initiated the United Park project and continuously opens its doors to events and activities that encourage community cohesiveness and environmental awareness.

The City’s sports and recreation department, headed by Wendy Pinder, was keen to get the learn-to-swim programme off the ground in the new year, Ms Birch said.

However, it is the recent development around the Princess Street traffic circle that is providing the most impetus to the project.

The rerouting of traffic has opened up an entire lane which Mr Gane explained will be used for strolling and wheel-based activity.

“Now that the upgrade has been completed, The City Roads department will be fencing off the activity area of the park on Main Road. The section of road that used to run to Hout Bay Manor will be included in the United Park. This is great news, as this piece of road will be used by older children for skateboarding, roller-blading, cycling and so on,” she said.

“The piece of land alongside the road will in the future house outdoor exercise equipment along the lines of what you see in Sea Point and Green Point. This will complement the existing cycle track, which is already very popular.”

Ms Gane was enthusiastic about the children’s play park, a project that has been particularly close to her heart.

“The park is already well used, and with the money we have received from the City, we will be able to overhaul it with new equipment such as tyre swings, ladders and logs as seating. The upgrade to the park will be done in January 2017.”

What was especially rewarding about seeing the different “pieces of the park” falling into place was that the vision for the Hout Bay Open Space Network was starting to become a reality, she said.

“This is the beginning of that vision. I am a runner myself, and I can think of nothing better than hosting a Hout Bay river run for all the communities of Hout Bay, beginning and ending at the United Park of Hout Bay.

“This will be a central, safe space where all of Hout Bay’s communities can come together to exercise, play, earn and learn about sustainable food growing and up skill. I truly do believe in the need for preventative medicine in our community and I believe this park addresses many of those needs.”

Terry Murphy, chairman of the United Park of Hout Bay and newly-established Hout Bay Tourism Forum, said the “grand plan” was to create a conservation area from the Kronendal area along the Disa River to the beach.

“We also want to restore the river and the wetlands to their natural condition, creating walkways and running trails and fitness location.

“We want to achieve Blue Flag status for Hout Bay Beach, and we are in active conversation with Blue Flag executives from the City,” he said.

“This grand plan is being managed by the Hout Bay Rivers Catchment Forum of which I am also chairman. We are organising a major workshop in March where all the executives from all the City departments concerned will contribute to pro-active discussions with interested local residents and in the best South African tradition ‘make a plan’ to achieve all of the above.”

Mr Murphy said from a tourism perspective, by creating “safe and beautiful walkways” to and along the beach with ever improving recreational services, “we will encourage residents to enjoy and most importantly to bring their friends and family from elsewhere to enjoy”.

“These walkways will form part of the tourism routes we will be promoting for Hout Bay with certified guides who will tell fascinating stories about our heritage, our communities and about nature. The tourism initiative is being managed by the Hout Bay Tourism Forum.

“We have a grand vision and we have taken the first steps and many more steps will follow.”