Falls off limits

2019-01-31 11:30

Following a spate of serious accidents there, the Woodhouse Falls, just above the Karkloof Falls, will remain closed indefinitely.

Also read: Are Falls too unsafe to use? 

And, after Sappi’s investigations into these incidents are complete, the falls could remain off limits to general visitors permanently.

Sappi spokesperson Zelda Schwalbach said the closure of the falls follows a number of incidents and injuries last year. “Recent incidents that have occurred up at the lesser known Woodhouse Falls in the Karkloof River, have been of grave concern to Sappi leadership as we take the safety and security of all our stakeholders extremely seriously,” said Schwalbach.

Schwalbach said that Sappi had changed the previous “no-access” policy to its property in 2011 to “one that embraces selected public use of certain areas of scenic beauty and facilities on its property”.

She said this has been done by implementing a comprehensive risk management programme in conjunction with various mountain biking clubs.

“The Karkloof Falls are in the Sappi Shafton plantations, that host the Sappi Karkloof MTB trails. The trails are open to cyclists and trail runners who adhere to the conditions as set out in the indemnity forms that they sign when entering the trails,” she said.

Schwalbach said the Karkloof Falls are generally open for the public to visit.

“On extreme occasions where there are operational activities in the area or when there are extreme fire weather conditions, access will be partially restricted.”

Schwalbach added the area is well demarcated and has ample signs and notices warning people of the danger and risks. “There are also physical barriers in places to restrict access to high risk areas. It is a serious concern that such barriers and signs are being ignored and even bypassed by some members of the public.”

The Karkloof Falls view spot is still open. 

She said in the past, people had entered the Karkloof area by stepping from the banks of the river onto rocks that extend across the width of the river. This part of the river leads onto the Woodhouse Falls where people have fallen and been injured.

“Since the last incident, on December 12 last year, access to the Woodhouse Falls has been restricted, with a barrier erected and security personnel on site, who are monitoring the area.”

She said the general viewing site and picnic area at the Karkloof Falls remain open to the public.

She added that an internal risk team is investigating the possible root causes for the recent spate of incidents and access to Woodhouse Falls remains restricted. “The need for additional interventions to ensure safe use of these beautiful facilities is being evaluated.

“If we cannot reasonably isolate the reasons for such incidents and implement reasonable mitigation measures, we will consider the closure of such facilities for general use and only allow access for restricted use.

“Whilst we understand such measures would be a great disappointment for many, it may be inevitable to ensure avoiding possible future loss of life through someone’s negligence.

“The Karkloof Falls and the associated MTB trails are on Sappi private property and we would regret that access to these wonderful resources be restricted or denied due to people not taking ownership of their safety and not heeding notice warnings and risks,” said Schwalbach.

“We are open to any suggestions and proposals by the public and any of our stakeholder groups including local government and business chambers, for consideration and inclusion in our current review of the risk mitigation plans,” said Schwalbach.

For any input or submissions please contact zelda.schwalbach@sappi.com.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg
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