Cape Town - As a result of the Cape Fires in March this year, the Tokai plantation section of Table Mountain National Park will remain closed despite outdoor enthusiasts pressing for the area to re-open again.
This section of the TMNP is a playground for mountain bikers and trail runners, who have begun entering the area again, disregarding its 'closed' status.
As a result SANParks has issued an urgent warning for adventurers to stay clear of the area.
In the interests of public safety SANParks says they had little choice but to keep the area closed for the harvesting period of pine and gum trees.
The closure of the burnt areas in Tokai has continually been assessed and reopening will only be considered once the area in question is safe and all environmental issues have been addressed.
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SANParks says they hope to have the Tokai pine tree and gum tree areas open to the public by March and July 2016, respectively.
SANParks issued the urgent warning, asking adventurer's to be aware of the following reasons:
- Standing trees that have been burnt or damaged by the fire are extremely dangerous and continue to fall down without warning.
- Unstable fire damage on the slopes can result in rock falls.
- Winds and rain exacerbate the danger with respect to falling trees, branches, rock falls and mudslides.
- Hazardous clear-felling operations of the burnt plantation trees are still underway with intensive harvesting of a number of compartments simultaneously.
- Many of the trails are severely damaged and in some places would need to be rebuilt post clear-felling operations.
- The area and its inhabitants are very fragile, and unauthorised entry can cause a disturbance to surviving animals.
- Burnt areas are sensitive as windblown seeds can be damaged and the first emerging plants can be killed by accidental trampling.
- Disturbance to sensitive erodible soils is very likely.
- The affected areas need to be rehabilitated completely before people can re-enter.
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SANParks said in a statement they "understand that recreational users are eager to access these areas, but their focus is to secure the area for the public’s safety and to rehabilitate the affected sites for future use as quickly as possible.
SANParks has continuously engaged with the public as to when the damaged areas would be reopened again. In September this year, some of the severely burnt Silvermine routes were re-opened to the public.
READ: Burnt Silvermine routes to be re-opened
Silvermine East was prioritised and Silvermine West is due to open by the end of December 2015, SANParks says.
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