After a last-minute change of venue, parkrun has finally come to Somerset West.
Five hundred and fourteen enthusiastic people converged on Broadlands Farm for the inaugural event on Saturday morning September 10.
Parkrun country manager, Bruce Fordyce, flew down from Johannesburg specially for the event, and aside from officiating, he also ran the five kilometre course.
Mr Fordyce said that from an initial event at Delta Park in Johannesburg, attended by only 26 people, parkrun has grown in four years into a national organisation, boasting almost half a million runners and walkers. “We’ll cross the 500 000 threshold in November,” he said. “And a half million people is a constituency.”
Mr Fordyce praised the local organising committee, headed by Jo Swart, who had toiled tirelessly to make the event a reality.
Initially, it was hoped that the parkrun would be established at the Paardevlei property recently purchased by the City of Cape Town from Heartland Properties, but the City’s property management department declined permission for the event to go ahead in May, according to an email in Bolander’s possession.
Ms Swart, the event director, told Bolander that Benedicta van Minnen, Ward 15 councillor at the time, had provided a letter of support for the event planned for Paardevlei.
Ms Van Minnen confirmed to Bolander that she had provided the letter, but had also pointed out that the appropriate permissions and permits would need to be sought in order for the event to go ahead. “My letter was simply an expression of support for the idea of starting a parkrun at Paardevlei.
“Ward councillors are routinely approached for comment by the city’s events permit office if an event permit is applied for in their ward. My letter of support did constitute permission for the event, and I made that quite clear when I met with the parkrun team.”
Despite property management denying permission for the event to take place at Paardevlei, the events permit office did issue a permit, but 10 days before the inaugural parkrun, property management intervened and asked that the event permit be withdrawn, citing safety concerns, and the fact that Paarde- vlei is the subject of a feasibility study to determine how the land will be used, and is therefore off-limits.
In response to an inquiry from Bolander last week, as to why permission had not been granted for a parkun at Paardevlei, deputy mayor Ian Nielsen said: “The path around the vlei is not safe for the runners as there are many tripping hazards along the path.
“There is no safety signage of any sort around the vlei to inform the runners of the potential dangers, such as drowning and so forth. According to the city’s managing agent, the website indicates that the path around the vlei is pram-friendly – this is incorrect.
“The parkrun also usually allows the runners to bring their dogs along to the run, which will not be conducive to the natural envir- onment at Paardevlei, as the site is rich in indigenous bird life and it is also the start of the breeding season.
A portion of the proposed route encroaches on private property (Paardevlei Owners Association) and the city is not aware if parkun has received permission from the private property owners.
There are no disclaimer or warning signs regarding the beehives or snakes present on site.
The route also passes through the baseline constructing sewer line which could potentially be hazardous.
“All in all, the site is not safe for the public and it is certainly not suitable for the purposes of a park-run. We had to find another venue in rather a hurry,” Ms Swart said, “and thankfully the owner of Broadlands Farm was happy to host us.” But the problems did not stop there.
“The new route had to be researched and laid out, and in that process, it emerged that part of the route was on land owned by the City of Cape Town.
“We had to apply for another event permit at short notice, but fortunately the city’s events permit office pulled out all the stops to help us,” Ms Swart said.
Speaking to Bolander after the event, Mr Fordyce said that even if Paardevlei does become available as a parkrun venue in the future, it will remain on Broadlands Farm. “We can’t simply turn our backs on the people who agreed to host parkun at such short notice.
“Paardevlei is a great venue, but we’re staying here.”