Botanical Gardens to be spruced up

2013-02-01 00:00

VISITORS to the Pietermaritzburg Botanical Gardens will be pleased to hear that there are plans to spruce up the gardens since storms, heavy rain and staff shortages have left them in a sorry state.

Regular visitors have complained about the park’s neglected and unkempt look, but curator Allen Nene said the Botanical Gardens would soon be spruced up now that all their staff were back from their holiday season leave.

Nene said weeds were part of the problem and dogs were also adding to the mess. Residents living nearby allowed their dogs to run free in the gardens, he said, and the staff were unsure whether some of the dogs they saw were strays.

“Another issue is that visitors allow their dogs to run free in the gardens and poop.

“Some dogs fight with others and we know that dogs chase away wildlife, which is why this year will be the last that we allow dogs into the gardens.”

Witness readers have protested the plan to ban dogs by the end of this year.

“Allowing dogs into the park has brought along a lot of negative issues. This decision should have been made long ago, but we have given enough time and fair notice for dog owners,” said Nene.

Dogs are banned at botanic gardens such as Kirstenbosch, which have designated areas where people can walk their dogs. Asked if a similar designated area would be considered in the Pietermaritzburg gardens, Nene said the idea was “not feasible”.

Dogs aside, the curator agreed that the gardens badly need to be cleaned up.

He said the recent storm that swept through the city had swept litter, plastic bottles, car tyres and other debris along the stream that runs through the gardens.

“We have two main issues, which are the overgrown weeds and the lake, which is polluted. We are also in the process of removing alien plants and silt on the lake. This has not been done since it was established 20 years ago.

“The garden management is now actively tackling the problems,” said Nene.

He was also unhappy that some residents were dumping garden refuse on the Botanical Gardens’ property.

The Witness caught up with Professor Colin Gardner, former English lecturer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, during one of his regular strolls through the park. Gardner thought the park was being taken care of.

“I think the gardens are in a fair state. I am aware that some parts look bedraggled.

“However, we have to consider that it was the holiday season, when people were on leave, and that it is imminent that the gardens would need some attention,” he said.

A resident who did not want to be named said she had lived near the park for more than 20 years and that it was usual at this time of the year for the park to look a bit unkempt, but that it was normally cleaned up by the end of February.

She did not agree with Nene that dogs were a problem and said that most visitors to the park kept their dogs on leashes.

The resident said she believed that far more damage was done by humans. There were also some boisterous wedding parties when couples and guests went to have their photographs taken.

“After they leave you see the plants trampled and litter strewn everywhere. We also have our fair share of noise pollution, despite there being a sign that says no music is allowed in the gardens,” she said.

Collective effort to clean out park

CURATOR Allen Nene said Botanical Gardens staff were working with Duzi uMngeni Conservation Trust (Duct) and the Expanded Public Works Program in a campaign to clean up the park.

Duct chairperson Dave Still said his organisation had been approached by the South African National Botanical Institute (Sanbi) to assist in clearing out aquatic weeds in the ponds and streams in the gardens. Sanbi has a chief director who oversees all the gardens and supervises the curators.

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