There wasn’t any music playing in the background at the Batts Road Park sod-turning ceremony held in Wynberg East recently, but if there was, it would have been Eye of the Tiger – the theme song to Rocky III.
Just like the hero of that popular movie franchise, Wynberg East is poised to make a comeback.
The community upliftment project was initiated by the Wynberg East Civic Association (Weca).
It is aimed at turning the park into an inviting, family-friendly environment and is but the first of many, says Judy Ferdenando, chair of the association. Although she doesn’t want to disclose too much detail just yet, Ferdenando does share that for the first time in years things are starting to happen.
“I can’t contain my excitement. In the past, Wynberg East didn’t have its own civic association. There was no community cohesion, no collaboration, no focused effort to bring stakeholders, public funders and the City of Cape Town together for the benefit of our community. Weca (registered as a civic association last year) can now access the funding provided by the City for projects like these,” she explains.
Ward 63 councillor Monty Oliver agrees that the community had been neglected in the past but, he says, this is about to change.
Speaking at the sod-turning ceremony held on Tuesday 27 October, Oliver says the ceremony marked the beginning of something good for the area.
“And we are going to start the plan here,” he adds.
Planning on the project started about a year ago, Oliver says, adding that there were so many requests to create a lovely space in Wynberg East. He explains that many options were considered, including William Herbert park, a section next to Rosmead Avenue, and an area in front of Wynberg Centre.
However, he says it was decided that Batts Road Park would be the best choice seeing that it was already half developed with established trees, some equipment and an enclosed fence.
“It also lends itself to a walking trail like the one at Lympleigh Road Park in Plumstead,” Oliver adds.
The initial improvements to the park, which will cost R350 000, will include the construction of a walking trail as well as the installation of new gym equipment.
Achmat Salie, an architectural technologist and a member of Weca, was instrumental in the design of the trail.
Oliver says money has already been put aside for the new financial year for further development of the park next year. He says that could include anything from new benches and tables to a toddler’s corner; it will depend on community feedback. He encourages the community to take ownership of the park.
“No idea is a bad idea, please send it on to us. This must become a family park; an opportunity for people to get to know each other in a safe space. The Wynberg East Neighbourhood Watch (WENW) has already done a lot to help with this. Join your neighbourhood watch,” Oliver urges.
Salwa Beukes, chair of WENW, says they regularly patrol the park day and night. If they spot unsavoury characters, they immediately alert the police. Beukes says she also spends time at the park with her grandchildren “to keep eyes” on the place. She pleas with residents to join the watch.
“We are desperate. We need the community to get involved, we need patrollers. All those currently involved are aged, we need younger people. Our motto is ‘by the community, for the community’. We will only be able to restore it to its former glory days if we work together. Wynberg East belongs to all of us, not just a hand full of people,” Beukes adds.
Ferdenando also believes that community involvement will be key in ensuring that the park becomes and remains a space for everyone to enjoy. She says projects like this have a knock-on effect on the area’s popularity.
“We need to conscientise people, to establish a code of conduct at the park. For example, there should be no dumping of food in the park or, if you take your dog for a walk, bring along a poo bag. We should all think of ideas on how we can keep it clean. If we create a good environment, people will want to use the park. This will lead to the value of houses in the area increasing. The value of properties is totally dependent on the area you create,” she says.
Other immediate plans, sponsored by private funders through Weca, will include the addition of traffic markings to the trail.
Ferdenando says the long-term plan is to involve the traffic department to hold educational sessions at the park, teaching children and learners from the surrounding crèches and schools about the rules of the road. A local mural artist, Mohamed Hassan, has also agreed to offer his services for free, to beautify the vibracrete walls. “Besides the murals, we are also thinking of creating a few chalk walls where kids can go to draw their own creations,” she says.
The members of Weca and WENW, who have volunteered to paint to base coats themselves, say they hope that the community help. “We want to make this a happy space for children and we also want to encourage senior citizens walking groups to use this space. We want to make the park alive with people. We want to change the paradigm in our area, reverse it – starting with the park,” Ferdenando concludes.
- For more information on Weca, call 082 620 2120. For more information on WENW, call 083 343 7408.