On the skatepark

Caroline Bradshaw, Somerset West

I am writing in response to Mary Woudberg’s letter “Skatepark raises concerns” (Bolander, August 31).

I understand that her letter was more about the impact of developing the park, but did include very accusative and inaccurate complaints about the current noise level of the park.

I have two young sons who spend a lot of time skateboarding in a safe and supervised area, spending time outdoors and getting fit doing a sport that they absolutely love.

Chris van der Merwe provides an incredible service to the youth, by not only promoting Christianity in his weekly Friday afternoon get togethers, but brings disadvantaged children from the townships to enjoy the benefits of an area that is so conveniently situated in our residential area.

It is what more children should be doing these days, rather than the sedentary lifestyle of TV, TV games and i-pads,etc.

On the other side of the coin, my elderly parents live in Bowden Park – and I am very sympathetic to them about the noise level, they are surrounded by recreational areas, with The Playhouse on the one side, Radloff Park on the other, and primary schools (also very loud on sports days,etc) – and various Scout and Guide Halls in close proximity.

As Chris mentioned in his letter, the skatepark closes at 6pm, so the noise that Mrs Woudberg heard until the late hours of the night could possibly be coming from The Playhouse or one of the halls in Drama Street that get rented out to dance studios or for parties.

The skatepark was originally positioned much further back in Radloff Park, and was having terrible security problems then, and it was moved more into the public eye because of that.

I am not sure what the solution is here, but am really hoping that the old and young can unite in some sort of a compromise.

Jackie Blundell, Somerset West

Having read through Margaret Woudberg’s letter to the Bolander several times, I would like to share my observations. This is written in my personal capacity, and I am a resident of Bowden Park.

Margaret, I am not disagreeing with your comments, but think maybe you are being rather harsh on the skateboard club. Noise certainly travels, particularly if we have a South Easter blowing.

Let us remember that Radolff Park and the portions of land for all the service and youth halls in this part of our town were earmarked as a recreational area for Somerset West before the 1970s.

Several of these halls hire their premises out for private parties, which are night events, often with loud music.

This also applies to The Playhouse Theatre, opened in 1973 – particularly if a dance show is in rehearsal or production.

Residents of Bowden Park are in line for all the music from there too. I do not think the skateboard park has loud, noisy events at night, so maybe Margaret is picking up some of the noise from these other premises

From the dates given above, these organisations were in the area first, before the Helderberg Society for the Aged built Vonke Park and Bowden Park – so maybe it is us who are in the wrong place?

When one moves to a new location, surely the local environment is something to be checked before making the move.

From the organisations with headquarters in Lourensford Road and Drama Street – it would certainly indicate that this area could have its fair share of noise.

Let us also remember that the skateboard park was originally further into Radloff Park, but due to the children being challenged by unsavoury people, it was moved to where it is visual at all times. This is certainly not an ideal site either.

I agree elder folk should be considered.

I have never met Chris van der Merwe, but believe he tries hard in this regard. His comment that we can contact him at any time does bear this out.

As he says, his park closes before dark, so it is not their noise one hears in the evenings.

The number of times the skateboard park has loudspeakers per year is minimal.

Let us also think of the regular noise as large lorries cross the traffic calmers, the motorbikes, the exuberant shouting and laughing of the Vonke Park staff at the gate while awaiting their transport at shift-end, very early in the mornings and around 7pm, and the “boom-boxes” from such vehicles.

The floodlights from the cricket practices every summer Thursday night light up Bowden Park, and are also rather annoying, but we must live and let live.

I have a 12-year-old grandson who is an excellent scholar and sportsman, but any spare time is spent at this safe environment, where he joins young people for exercise in the fresh air and pleasure – it limits the time they are fiddling on their ‘i-whatnots’ – or getting up to worse mischief.

The youth are our future – their group events should be encouraged not threatened, and we should salute a person like Chris, who is willing to give his time and energy for other peoples’ children.

Whether it is a good idea to extend the park does need very careful consideration, but it sounds as if Chris is willing to discuss this with the neighbourhood residents.

There is ample space already in Radloff Park for family picnics; volley ball is a quiet game, I am not sure what skim-boarding is – could be noisy.

Hopefully a compromise can be found so that young and old can live harmoniously together.

Val du Toit, Somerset West

The letter printed in Bolander last week is, as the writer pointed out, an expression of her personal view.

I am also a resident of the Vonke Flats, and the letter surprised me, since I and most of my friends and acquaintances here were either not aware of this facility’s existence, or else regard it as an excellent outlet for young people’s energy; a healthy activity making a welcome change from time spent in front of TV and computer screens.

It also minimises the dangers of traffic accidents involving the youth.

In any case, we live in the vicinity of Beaumont School as well, and are therefore subject to a huge traffic flow every day, while at weekends the surrounding wine estates bring many welcome visitors.

The views are beautiful and free for all of us to enjoy. We are so lucky to be part of this vibrant community.

The. Helderberg Society for the Aged units closest to all this activity are those for independent living, including the largest block (Vonke Flats) and also Swannack Gardens, which are the adjacent cottages, as well as Bowden Park (the block of cottages in closest proximity to Radloff).

All the residents, although “chronologically challenged” (between 70 and 101 years old), lead full and active lives in the community. The frail and chronically ill are housed either in Mountview for assisted living or the Support Centre – also in Vonke Park, but furthest from the Sports fields and therefore outside normal hearing range.

Rest and a peaceful environment are not priorities for most of us – for that, we have all eternity ahead of us. I prefer to drink to life – in all its infinite variety.

Thank you, Chris van der Merwe for your positive reply. Keep up the good work.