The City of Cape Town and the Princess Vlei Forum hosted a launch last weekend to mark the completion of the first phase of upgrades to Princess Vlei Park. The project’s first phase was completed at a cost of R893 000, and includes an entrance gateway with cladded walls and a pedestrian pathway with a wood viewing deck overlooking the vlei. A brand new paved multipurpose parking area is also available to the public, says JP Smith, Mayco member for safety, security and social services.Smith says City officials recognise that the natural and recreational value of Princess Vlei should not only be preserved for the future, but also conserved for residents to enjoy now. “The greater vision for Princess Vlei is an inclusive and multi-use space where all residents can enjoy time out. We facilitated pedestrian access to the vlei, increasing use of the space by walkers and joggers. Visitors can now use the deck for unobstructed views of the vlei’s natural beauty,” he says.Members of the forum have been working with the City to transform the vlei into a lively nature, heritage and community park and say the new development marks yet another milestone for the neighbourhood. The vlei, located in Grassy Park, is known for its immense history, and is precious to many locals in the area. It is also the entry to the wetland system that runs through the area, purifying the water before it runs into the ocean.The upgrade so far has been guided by the vision formulated through workshops, surveys and community engagement as part of the forum’s Imagine Princess Vlei project. The vision was a park that conserves biodiversity, provides space for environmentally sensitive recreational activities, provides a learning and recreational space for youth and honours cultural heritage and practices.Locals joined the celebration recently and helped various organisations’ representatives by planting over 250 plants donated by the Table Mountain Fund. City of Cape Town officials Eddie Andrews and Kevin Southgate, Khoi representatives Clive van Diemen and John Lewin and forum members were amongst those who spoke at the event. Stuart Hall, a botanist and forum member, says the project benefits the ecosystem health of the vlei by increasing the biodiversity of the site, helping to provide food and shelter for insects, birds and other animals.“Perennial vegetation cover is also more desirable than the annual grass cover on much of the rest of the site, in that it prevents wind erosion and facilitates better infiltration and decreases evaporation when it rains, and filters water before it enters the vlei.”Forum members have promised to continue to strive to elevate the status of Princess Vlei Park, and to use private and public funds to enhance its value to nature conservation and the community.They urge businesses to contribute to this upgrade project. They say they are grateful to Southgate and other City officials for their contributions to the development.Funds were raised by the forum to employ a manager and assistant at the vlei for three years, with the aim of conducting environmental education programmes for local schools and the community.Planning for the second phase is currently under way. V For more information contact Bridget Pitt on 082 462 1308n or email@example.com.