Community digs deep

2019-09-10 06:00
Leon Boonzaier, Chloe Wood, Jono Bishop, Pnina Wood and Bronwyn Davidson at the White Road Railway Clean-up. PHOTO: Sebastian English

Leon Boonzaier, Chloe Wood, Jono Bishop, Pnina Wood and Bronwyn Davidson at the White Road Railway Clean-up. PHOTO: Sebastian English

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Rondebosch and Newlands residents, living in the area that stretches between Kelvin and Rouwkoop roads, got their hands dirty for the first annual White Road Railway Clean-up on Saturday 31 August.

The initiative, which is the brainchild of resident Bronwyn Davidson (34), saw the patch of unkempt veld running next to the railway line get a green makeover.

This is the first community outreach project that Davidson has been involved in. She says the high rate of train cable thefts in the area during the past three months motivated her to get the ball rolling.

“My husband, Justin (35), and I moved to the area in 2017. Our house is next to the railway line. We saw the impact crime had on the area and realised something had to be done. So we decided to roll up our sleeves and do something about it,” says Davidson.

Working on the broken-window theory – that visible signs of crime, anti-social behaviour, and civil disorder create an urban environment that encourages further crime – the couple, with the help of their neighbour Rowan Mentis (69), devised a plan to turn the overgrown, 600m stretch of White Road into a beautiful green space.

“I approached Gail Morrison from Harfield Village, who cleaned up the rail reserve in that area. She put me in touch with George Kiewiets, the special operations manager at Prasa. I approached him and the rest is history,” she says.

About four weeks ago, the couple reached out to the community for help through various WhatsApp groups. Within two weeks they had successfully raised over R10 000 which was used to fund the project.

“We paid David Maseperow, our local garden service, to remove the grass from root level and used the rest of the money to purchase 50 fever trees and various indigenous plants.

“A neighbor, Rory Bonnes, donated 11 Yellowwood trees which he personally grew from seed. Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden donated 20 indigenous shrubs. Montebello Nursery and Lakeside Nursery were also generous,” she says.

On the day, residents also arrived with their car boots full of plants and cuttings from their gardens, Davidson says.

She says, considering that the clean-up was organised so quickly, she was surprised by the turn-out.

“I had taken about 60 nametags with me and they were quickly used up. There were also a lot of children who helped with picking up litter.

“The mood was hopeful and jolly. We pulled together as a community and worked in unity to get this done.”

The trees were planted three metres apart, but the rest of the landscaping was left to the avid gardeners who were each given a spot to layout as they saw fit.

Leon Boonzaier (75), whose “job” was to hand out water for planting, says this has been amazing for the neighbourhood.

“Our family home dates back to 1908. My father used to catch the train daily on his way to work. In my 75 years, I have never seen White Road look so good. Bronwyn did a wonderful job of bringing us all together. Now we are all connected on WhatsApp.”

Fellow resident Shayne Brookstein (47), who besides donating plants, also dug holes and planted trees, says she wants to give credit to Bronwyn too.

“I’ve been living in the area for 16 years and have tried to get something like this up and running in the past. She made it happen. I take my hat off to her.”

Kiewiets says initiatives like these are inspiring other communities to get involved.

“We have already had stakeholders contacting us who spoke to Bronwyn on how to go about it. When you have community members who are active they become mentors to those who are willing to make a difference and then it just starts to spread.”

Davidson says they didn’t have enough plants to fill the entire area, but they will keep adding to it as time goes by.

A few late donations were received and the plan is to purchase 50 additional fever trees to plant in the rail reserve.

A clean-up will also be held every year just before spring going forward.

“We’ve also put together a roster, saying who will water the plants once a week. Residents have agreed to donate the water from their properties,” adds Davidson.

V For more information or to donate, call Bronwyn on 084 929 4639 or email bronwyndavidson10@gmail.com. To organise a railway clean-up, email George Kiewiets on GKiewiets@metrorail.co.za

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