With hikers and conservation groups eager to return to Table Mountain, South African National Parks (SanParks) announced on Sunday 9 May that certain areas, particularly Rhodes Memorial and Deer Park, would remain closed until rehabilitation work was completed.
Frans van Rooyen, park manager at Table Mountain National Park (TMNP), said they have been inundated with calls and messages from users who would want to go back and embark on various activities within the areas. “But, unfortunately, at this stage it is unsafe to allow access until the rehabilitation work has been finalised… and we request a bit of patience from the users,” Van Rooyen said.
Although no estimated date of completion has been given, Babalwa Dlangamandla, public relations officer for TMNP, said the areas affected by the fire had been secured for risk identification and that the infrastructure assessment within the burnt area was in progress. Soil stabilisation, with the assistance of City of Cape Town, is another task which has been completed with teams continuing to monitor the area for mudslide and water runoff.
“(SanParks) has met with the various local stakeholders to discuss the impacts of post fire and remedial actions. This is a continuous process,” said Dlangamandla.
Planned work anticipated to commence by the end of May include the felling of burnt and dangerous trees, footpath maintenance, the monitoring of soil erosion, boardwalk repairs, the repair of water pipe lines and electricity lines, and signage replacement.
“The recovery of fynbos will be closely monitored by our ecologist scientist, who will study the return of plants and animals after the fire,” said Dlangamandla.
One group keen not to let the grass, or in this case alien invasive plants, grow under their feet is the Friends of Rhodes Memorial (Form).
Form chair Gabriel Clark-Brown had hoped to hold a clean-up of the charred site at Rhodes Memorial on Freedom Day, Tuesday 27 April (“Rhodes Memorial clean-up planned for Freedom Day”, People’s Post (online), 21 April) but he was told the clean-up couldn’t go ahead just yet as SanParks staff, engineers, the Western Cape Heritage Department and the insurance evaluators were busy with official work on site.
“Following the huge damage that the fire caused at Rhodes Memorial, we would like to take this window of opportunity to be able to rake up all the litter and start to plant indigenous fynbos and trees,” says Clark-Brown. He explains that, initially, when the monument was built in 1912 (using monies raised through donations by more than 30 000 people) there wasn’t as much tree covering.
“Now we hope to raise funds to purchase trees, including yellowwood, Protea and silverleaf trees, to replace those that were badly burnt in the fire. I believe that in a few years the Memorial, a place where all South Africans feel welcome to relax, meditate and enjoy the view, will look absolutely beautiful, free of alien trees and plants,” says Clark-Brown, adding that funds raised would go towards buying saplings, the planned clean-up as well as repairing items such as Rhodes’s bench and removing deadwood. He says donations in time – joining Form to assist in the planting of fynbos when the time comes – would also be much appreciated.
Dlangamandla said the park has been in contact with Form and other interested parties with regards to granting them access to the burnt areas to conduct clean-ups.
“We have stated the reasons why they cannot access these areas due to safety precautions. We’ll invite them after we’ve completed our assessment and once the area is safe. We will be in a good position to invite them in assisting with activities like clean-ups and alien hacks,” she says.
Re-opened paths in TMNP include Newlands Forest, Newlands picnic site, Devil’s Peak towards Platteklip footpath, Molteno jeep track towards Kloofnek, Atlantic Seaboard (Camps Bay, Kasteelspoort), Constantia Nek, Lion’s head, Signal Hill and Cecilia Forest.
Areas that remain closed are Devil’s Peak slopes, Deer Park, Rhodes Memorial, Kings Blockhouse, Devil’s Peak contour footpath, Newlands ravine, Newlands contour path, Woodstock cave, Tafelberg Road beyond the chain, Deadman’s Tree, Bridle Road intersection, Platteklip Washhouses boardwalk, Rocklands access point, Murray & Stewart quarry (Old quarry), Mostert Mill (Mowbray footbridge) and Old Zoo sites.
“SanParks will continue to provide updates on progress made as information becomes available and we would like to thank you for your patience and cooperation during this time,” Van Rooyen concluded.