City’s storm-wracked park worries event organisers

2013-04-17 00:00

WITH city event organisers in a panic over the shoddy state of Alexandra Park ahead of three major events to be held soon at the site, the municipality has convened an emergency meeting to discuss the matter today.

With Pietermaritzburg also celebrating its 175th anniversary this year, Cars in the Park, the Comrades Marathon and Art in the Park are expected to attract larger crowds than usual, while the city is also expected to feature on national and international television.

Cars in the Park takes place on May 19, followed by the Comrades Marathon on June 2, with this year’s “up run” ending in Alexandra Park.

The main gate through which runners will enter the Oval in the park is jammed shut, as a tree that fell during January’s huge storm has still not been cleared.

Cars in the Park organiser Fred Rascher said: “The world’s television cameras will be focused on this spot; it just cannot look like this on the day.”

Buhle Ndwandwe of Pietermaritzburg Msunduzi Tourism said five trees had been uprooted at the site where Art in the Park would be held and crater-like holes dot the area.

Rascher pointed to where his own show would be held, where the palisade fencing was broken. In one section, a swing from the park had been uprooted and placed over a gap in the fence to block cars from entering the recreation area.

He said he had been trying to draw the municipality’s attention to the problems since late last year. He gave the municipality a list of repairs that needed to be done in and around the Mayor’s garden, where vintage, classic and unusual cars will be on display.

“These improvements will make the park look a little better when the TV cameras are there at the finish of Comrades,” Rascher wrote.

Receiving no response, he proposed that the Vintage Sports Car Club (VSCC) pay for the repairs.

He said they had settled on a contractor who was to charge R18 000. Rascher said in turn the municipality could waive the R10 000 booking fee. However, there was still no response and by yesterday he was worried that time to effect the repairs was running out.

The Witness marketing manager Hilton Tredgold said that as sponsors of Cars in the Park, they did not want a repeat of the Dusi canoe race, where the Msunduzi Parks Department had done a shoddy job of cleaning around the weirs.

Msunduzi spokesperson Brian Zuma responded to the concerns by organising an emergency meeting with all concerned parties this morning. He said the matters raised by Rascher were not brought to the attention of senior managers by the person he had been dealing with. Zuma said the municipality recognised that events like Cars in the Park added value to the Pietermaritzburg brand.

“We cannot afford to let them down,” he said.

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