The Riverine Rovers, a subgroup of the Friends of Silvermine Nature Area (Fosna), welcomed a group of volunteers to the Silvermine wetlands on Saturday 27 March to assist with ongoing conservation and maintenance efforts.
The wetlands are in the process of receiving a minor upgrade, with the City of Cape Town and the Riverine Rovers tackling the replacement of bench planks first. The regular maintenance of the wetlands and facilities is intended to aid the conservation of this important ecosystem and to encourage tourism.
“Wetlands are one of the most productive ecosystems in Cape Town, they provide habitat to a variety of wildlife species where they have an abundance of cover, food and water. Wetlands are also important for tourism as visitors are able to enjoy nature-based activities which include birding, fishing and hiking,” says Zahid Badroodien, Mayco member for community service and health.
The City is replacing the old wooden planks from the benches, and seating areas, with more durable and long-lasting planks made of recycled materials – the first refurbishment of these items since they were placed many years ago.
“Due to high salt content and strong winds, the life span of benches in the wetland is significantly reduced compared to other sheltered areas. The benches are being replaced with recycled plastic, polywood beams that are more resistant to UV light, salt, sand-blasting and strong winds associated with the area. There are also additional support structures being placed in the middle of the benches to prevent them from warping in the future,” Badroodien explains.
According to Riverine Rovers chair, Dr Dave Balfour, the low-level boardwalk also needs to be removed as the annual flooding of the boardwalk has rotted the wood.
“The planks have been replaced in the past but the stage has been reached whereby the entire boardwalk needs to be replaced or removed. Some years ago, we were quoted in excess of R250 000 to replace it and there was no money available,” he says.
That is still the case, he adds, however, in its place will be a grassy dry-season crossing, once the project is completed.
The City says the boardwalks, under management by their recreation and parks department, are undergoing routine maintenance where planks are being replaced as and where needed.
According to the Rovers, management of the Lower Silvermine River requires the wetlands to be dredged to remove the build-up of silt. The challenge, they say, is that “the boardwalk made it very difficult in the past to dredge”.
Both private groups and the City work continually on the upkeep of the wetlands and seek solutions for such challenges.
The continued conservation and sustainability of tourism in wetland areas, according to Badroodien, requires a holistic management approach to their upkeep, which includes:
- Invasive alien vegetation clearing;
- boardwalk and path maintenance;
- water quality monitoring; and
- restoration and fire management.
The work on benches is set to be completed in mid-April.
The Riverine Rovers are calling on the public to get involved in the maintenance project.