Jonkershoek Nature Reserve access: more questions

A decision to close the Jonkershoek Nature Reserve to vehicle access in November 2019 was reversed following a public backlash, but there is still uncertainty over the long-term future of vehicle access.

Despite a lengthy exchange of emails between Bolander on the one hand, and CapeNature and MTO Group (MTO) on the other, there are still unanswered questions relating to vehicular access to Jonkershoek Nature Reserve.

Bolander reported on the initial decision by CapeNature and MTO to close the reserve to public vehicle access in December (“Backlash over vehicle ban”, Bolander, December 18), and the resultant public backlash over the decision.

In a move clearly prompted by the public backlash, CapeNature and MTO issued a joint press statement rescinding the decision, pending a public participation process about the matter. The press statement also reiterated regulations that have always been in effect with regard to public vehicle access to the reserve.

Criticism levelled at MTO (which manages access to the reserve) was that it had failed to police the existing access regulations, and that signage indicating go- and no-go areas had fallen into disrepair. Subsequent to the public backlash, the regulations were enforced, a number of new signs were hastily erected, and chains and cables barring access were replaced or repaired.

Bolander asked for clarification of the regulations, and received the following joint statement from MTO and CapeNature, dated January 24:

“Vehicles continue to be permitted on the circle route to access the Jonkershoek Nature Reserve. 

“In response to queries regarding the Jonkershoek plantation, a meeting was held between the MTO Group and CapeNature (CN) management on January 17, whereby it was decided that the MTO Group will manage vehicle access into the Jonkershoek plantation, until a new memorandum of understanding (MoU) is finalised between CN and MTO. 

“CapeNature is in the process of establishing a protected area advisory committee for the Hottentots Holland/Jonkershoek complex, which will essentially serve as a platform for all interested and affected parties to engage on matters relevant to the protected area.

“This new platform is supported by the MTO Group and the advisory committee will include representatives from various stakeholder groups to engage further with stakeholders regarding any possible changes to gate access. 

MTO Trails Jonkershoek is located on a commercial forestry plantation and as such visitors are not permitted into certain areas due to ongoing forestry operations. 

Visitors are urged to take note of the below:

No entry into prohibited areas. Part of Jonkershoek is privately managed forestry commercial land. Entry into certain areas are prohibited due to operations such as felling, block burns etc.

Drivers need to adhere to the maximum speed limit of 30km/* .

No overnighting is allow-
ed. Entry times are 7.30am to 6pm.

Vandalism, including breaking locks on gates, damage to vehicles etc. will not be tolerated.

Vehicles are only allowed on the circle route driving in an anti-clockwise direction.

Asked when the public participation process, first mooted in a November press release to take place from December 1, would commence, MTO’s Tashne Singh said in an email:

“The stakeholder engagement process for information sharing is ongoing. Additionally, CapeNature is in the process of establishing a protected area advisory committee for the Hottentots Holland/Jonkershoek complex, which will essentially serve as a platform for all interested and affected parties to engage on matters relevant to the protected area.

“This new platform is supported by the MTO Group and the advisory committee will include representatives from various stakeholder groups.

“This will serve as the platform  to engage stakeholders regarding any possible changes to gate access. Should any interested parties want to be included on the MTO Trails Jonkershoek stakeholder database, you are encouraged to email communications@mto.group”

On January 9, Bolander received a letter from Steve Chadwick, representing the Gantouw Hike Club, in which he raised a number of questions about the processes that had unfolded in relation to the initial vehicle ban, and the extent to which the community had been invited to participate (“Jonkershoek access”, Steve Chadwick, Gantouw Hike Club).

Despite numerous requests for a response to the points raised by Mr Chadwick, neither Cape Nature, nor MTO has chosen to respond.

Although the initial decision to rescind vehicle access has been reversed, it appears this is only temporary in nature, pending the conclusion of a new MuO between CapeNature and MTO.

The terms of reference of the planned protected area advisory committee are, at this time unknown, but that body may well choose to vary the current conditions of vehicle access.

Bolander will continue to report on this matter as the story unfolds.