‘Trees must not fall’

2016-09-06 06:00
Concerned residents say cutting down the pines and replacing them with fynbos is a bad idea because fynbos will increase crime in the area as it easy for someone to hide in them.  PHOTO: TIYESE JERANJI

Concerned residents say cutting down the pines and replacing them with fynbos is a bad idea because fynbos will increase crime in the area as it easy for someone to hide in them. PHOTO: TIYESE JERANJI

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Parkspace – a community forum created to liaise with SANParks – is now entering a full-on legal battle to ensure that the Tokai Forest is preserved.

Nicky Schmidt, Parkspace chairperson, says they are concerned that SANParks are acting in bad faith, with regards to the management framework, given the sudden rush to fell the area. She adds the concerns that they represent are less about the preservation of pines – which are a crop – but more about an adherence to the Tokai Cecilia Management Framework which was negotiated in 2006 together with SANParks, the City of Cape Town, and affected stakeholder groups, and subsequently agreed to. “This is somewhat ironic, given they undertook to adhere to the framework as recently as July, at a community meeting at the Alphen Hall. It has been made clear by conservationists and botanists that the entire area will be given over to fynbos – this would, again, indicate a breach of the framework,” she says.

In a statement, SANParks says in terms of biodiversity, the framework makes provision for the restoration of sustainable areas of critically endangered Cape Flats Sand Fynbos’ and Peninsula Granite Fynbos, ecological corridors, Afromontane (African mountainous) forests, river and wetland systems.

This follows after a very emotional day on Tuesday 30 August when work began at the forest to cut down the trees which will be replaced by fynbos.

Parkspace managed to stop the felling in the sensitive area below Orpen Road. However, it continues in two blocks above Orpen Road in the interim.

They will be going to court on Friday 9 September.

While felling the trees to have it replaced by fynbos had many fuming with anger, others thought it was long overdue.

Some went as far as saying that replacing the forest with fynbos is a bad reminder of 16-year-old Franziska Blochliger who was raped and murder in the forest.

“This makes us really scared. The incident happened a few steps away from the fynbos and it just shows how dangerous fynbos is,” says Andrea Pearson, a Bergvliet resident who visits the forest everyday.

The owners of the forest, MTO Forestry, plans to cut down almost 30 hectares of forest which also includes the Cecilia plantation.The decision to phase out commercial plantations on the peninsula was made by national government in 1999.

Eric Harley, a resident who stays next to the forest, says he is glad the pines are finally coming done. “I’m happy that they are bringing the fynbos here. (It is) vanishing by the day. At least with the trees gone we will be able to see properly. We’ll also have a view of the mountain that we haven’t had in a long time because of the trees,” says Harley, adding that visibility will also contribute to safety. “There has been two muggings here and I believe when we don’t have the trees we will see clearly,” he says.

In a letter sent to the residents by SANParks on Monday 29 August, a day before the treefellers moved in, it was stated that following devastating fire last year something had to be done about the trees and the risk that such a fire can cause to adjacent residential area. The letter informed residents of the felling and stated the effects of the fires, as well as the benefits of fynbos.

“A fynbos fire can be managed and is generally not a threat to fire proof building on the edge as it does not burn as intensely as a pine,” it states.

Resident Clive King says the felling took him and many others by surprise. “I come here every day and to my surprise (last Tuesday) I was told that I was trespassing. I’m very upset. No one mentioned anything to anyone. SANParks pretended to be involved with the community yet they go behind everyone’s back.

“We will stop this; there will be a serious problem with crime if this is not stopped. We don’t want fynbos. They attract crime, no one can hide in these tress. You can see wide and far but with the fynbos you’re in danger,” he says.

Pearson, an aupair, says of the felling: “I come here with my dogs every day. During the school holiday I also take the kids out to come play here. This is a very nice place and cutting down the pines is a mistake. The fynbos is dangerous. We don’t want the fynbos. I don’t think I will come here ever again because I’m sacred, scared for my safety. Someone can hide in the fynbos and you won’t see them,” she says.

Historian Berta Van Rooyen says she was very excited that the pines are being cut down. “This is the beginning of a process to complete the cycle. Fynbos is a historic marker. This will preserve the history and it is extremely important,” she says.

Gavin Bell, SANParks area manager, says this has been long time coming.

“This had been discussed for some time. This is an important day in history and it shows the importance of natural heritage. We had letters being sent out to residents in the close proximity of the forest and we have all measures in place for animals here. We believe it will be a good space again as soon as the trees are gone.”

SANParks says they only sent the letters a day before MTO started cutting down the trees because they only got confirmation from them on that day.

The forest will be closed for four to six weeks while work is being done.

All photos by Tiyese Jeranji

Gavin Bell SanParks area manager says the cutting of the pines has been long time coming it has to be done to preserve fynbos.

Tony Rebelo (SANBI), Zoe Poulson (UCT) and Anthony Hitchcock (Kirstenbosch) are happy that the trees are being felled and they the process of fynbos conservation will start.

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