Protected areas desecrated

Gail Mingard,
Somerset West

On Saturday September 7, I was in the Helderberg Marine Protected Area and the Lourens River Estuary and river mouth “protected natural environment”.

I photographed and chatted to several groups of people with dogs alerting them to the fact that dogs are not allowed in this area.

They all stated they are from Stellenbosch and were not aware of this.

They asked me not to publish any photographs in photo blogs of them with their dogs.

I respected this request, but there is the need for you as a community newspaper to inform the Stellenbosch and surrounding residents and public of the National Environment Management Protected Areas Act No. 57 of 2003.

Despite there being”no dog” signage along approximately 3km of the Strand Beach Road, there are still large numbers of dog walkers bringing their beloved dogs for walks.

Many are on leashes, but many roam free and have a glorious time.

I am a dog lover and lived in Plettenberg Bay for three years, in the 1980s, and we had immense pleasure from taking our dog Benjie to the beach.

No doubt, Benjie’s enjoyment of these walks was even greater than ours.

But Benjie was never allowed or taken to protected nature reserves.

There appears to be a lack of understanding by visitors to the beach and community newspapers reporting on the “dogs at beaches” between the City of Cape Town’s Coastal By-laws, which are under review, and the National Environment Management Protected Areas Act No. 57 of 2003, which applies in full to both the Lourens River Nature Reserve Protected Area and the Helderberg Marine Protected Area.

The National Environment Management Protected Areas Act No. 57 of 2003 is not under review, and protected reserves are entitled to the full protection of this act.

Despite this act being in place, dog walkers from Stellenbosch to Strand and possibly even further away bring their dogs to these protected areas on a daily basis, and walk them along and in the Lourens River Estuary and along the Helderberg MPA beach.

This is gross disrespect for our natural heritage of South Africa and the Western Cape.

Further to which the running of a park run in this area is grossly negligent.

All of these actions show little municipal /protected reserve management or care or foresight by residents and visitors for our future environment, and our diminishing bird population in South Africa and the world.

Please refer to the statistics in the State of South Africa’s Bird Report.

Disturbance is one of the causes of depleting numbers of coastal bird life.

Download the first State of South Africa’s Bird Report www.birdlife.org.za/media-and-resources/state-of-south-africas-bird-report/ for details.

There is an enormous difference between coastal by-laws and a nature and marine protected area.

The one is under review but the other is in full force.

In 2010 the Cape Town reserve information reflected the Lourens River beach estuary and wetland as being inaccessible.

“The pristine mountain catchment area and upper reaches are not freely accessible, as they are on private estates.

“The estuary at the mouth is not accessible to the public, but may be viewed through the fence from Strand Beach” – City of Cape Town Nature Reserves: A network of amazing biodiversity 2010 Report.

Now walkers and visitors are privileged to enjoy the calm and serenity of this area, and many abuse this privilege by walking dogs who invariably scamper around gleefully in the shallow waters of sea and estuary (without collecting dog faeces, which pollutes the estuary waters), and a global and national organisation parkrun South Africa runs a weekly event through this area, with up to 900 runners.

That is abuse and lack of management to its fullest capacity.

Graham Kershaw, Strand Beach parkrun, responds:

Based on the subject of your email, you feel that we are committing an infringement.

Besides getting an event permit from the City of Cape Town, we have also received permission from Marine and Coastal Management to run this current route every Saturday morning.

We have also taken note of your attached newspaper article which stipulates that the marine protected area (MPA) is out of bounds for dogs, fishing and vehicles, but remains open for people to walk through, so we are not committing an  infringement, as dogs are not permitted at our parkrun and we have received the necessary permissions and permits. 

However, the good news is that we will be changing our route to exclude the MPA in the very near future. We are in the process of planning our new route.

Mr Kershaw told Bolander on Friday October 4, that changing the route cannot be done at the stroke of a pen.

“We are in the process of changing the route, but we need to plan and test the new route, update the route on the parkrun website, and notify all of our members where the new start will be. That all takes time.”

Bolander will keep tabs and provide feedback as it arises – Ed

Send letters to bolander@inl.co.za by Friday at noon.