Community spirit thrives

Carl Kritzinger, Somerset West

I’ve been living in Somerset West for a few years.

Something here has always bothered me: The area where I live lacks a sense of community spirit.

People band together to fight crime, but that seems to be about where it ends.

Recently, while walking in Shady Glen at the top of Oldenland Road, I came across some young guys working on the paths in the green belt.

They were all around high school or university age, and they were happily building paths and chatting with the passers-by.

I’ve witnessed some results of their work.

There are neat bridges across the stream; paths have been saved from erosion and they have made pretty; there are new winding routes that can be used by runners, hikers and dog-walkers alike.

People getting together and doing hard work for the benefit of all is the foundation, for a healthy sense of community.

These young guys are doing something that uplifts the area for everyone who uses it.

And more: they are also creating a friendly, cheerful presence in the Glen.

This is sorely needed after the recent reports of crime and vagrancy in the area.

They care about the area: I commented to them on the trash in the area, and they responded by helping me to fill my bakkie with bags of litter cleaned out of the bush and the stream.

In my mind, these guys cannot be praised enough for their work.

So, it was both surprising and disappointing when I saw these guys being verbally abused and harassed

Their abuser had taken offense to the fact that the young guys are all mountain bikers – and intended to do some cycling in the Glen.

He was shouting at them, accusing them of being criminals and threatening to call the police. I wish I was joking. Call the police – because people are riding bicycles…

It made me wonder: Is he completely ignorant of what is happening in his community? Or does he simply lack any sense of perspective?

Crime in this area has increased tenfold over the past two years; one only has to take a walk through the neighborhood to notice almost every residence now has electrical fencing, six feet tall walls and security gates.

The green belt has played a pivotal role as criminals and vagrants use this area to gain access to homes in Olden-land Road, as well as a hideout, where they keep stolen property out of sight until their pick up driver arrives.

Strictly, speaking, I agree that he is right: there is a no-cycling sign at the glen, so technically they should not be riding their bikes there.

Fair enough. But…

They are doing a huge amount of good in the area. And there would seem to be much more relevant things to worry about. So is this really something that is worth fighting over?

The Glen is a pretty big place and there is ample space there for anyone who wants to ride a bike, walk a dog, fly a kite or jog.

The incident made me wonder: what sort of a community do we want to be?

Do we want to retreat behind our individual razor-wire fences and shout abuse at anyone who acts differently to ourselves, regardless of the greater good?

Or do we want to embrace the basic sense of live-and-let-live tolerance that is needed to create a community.

I’d prefer that latter, and since I’d also like to be allowed to ride my bike in the Glen, I’m going to be talking to the City Parks and town council soon, to try and get them to allow responsible use of the area for mountain biking. You can support our cause by signing this petition:* /ward-councellor-stuart-pringle-allow-and-regulate-mountain-biking-in-shady-glen