Cressi urged to hand over ‘broken’ …

After years of advocating for change, trying to preserve precious native species and rebuild neglected trails themselves, users of Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) are calling for a change of management at the economically and ecologically significant park.

The Public Forum, Friends of Table Mountain, has called on Environment Minister Barbara Cressy to hand over management of the TMNP from South African National Parks (SANParks) to the City of Cape Town. They say the city is in a better position to address the issues and further incentivize them to use the park’s revenue.

Read the first part at Daily Maverick:”Give our home city its mountain – calls for better quality control and management

Safety and security

In the past two months, there have been nine attacks on people around Lion’s Head and Signal Hill, says Friends of Table Mountain president Andy Davids.

But there are many other hotspots in the park, including Pipetrack, Tafelberg Road, Blockhouse, Constantia Nek, Karbonkelberg, Red Hill, Kalk Bay, Muizenberg, and Newlands Forest.

Besides worn or overgrown trails, lack of maintenance has made some trails dangerous to use.

Table Mountain
The Celtics ran Thursday at the recently rehabilitated Rooikat Track in Table Mountain National Park. (Photo: Celtics running track)

“I think the quality of boardwalks and trails has really come apart over the last few years, and it really affects the safety of people who hike and run on the mountains,” said trail runner Emily Vidal, who grew up in Cape Town.

“When I was last there, I was really shocked at the number of planks that were broken, missing, or damaged from rain and falling sand, and even unrepaired fire damage. There were also nails sticking out everywhere.”

While jogging last week, Vidal slipped on a trail that was at an extreme angle, slashing her knee on an exposed stud. She needed 15 stitches.

“I think it’s really dangerous… We weren’t necessarily in a very remote area – we were less than a kilometer away from the cable car,” Vidal explained.

“And there were definitely people around who didn’t have a lot of experience in the mountains and they took the cable car and they didn’t have the right equipment or first aid kits, which puts tourists and people without experience in situations that are more dangerous than they are likely to fall on these trails or trails. “.

SANParks said Daily Maverick That “the safety of mountain users remains a huge priority for us as we strive to do everything we can to combat all crime on the mountain, within the SANParks-Managed Marine Protected Area, and beyond.”

SANParks said that since the establishment of the SEAM (Sea, Air, Mountain and Special Rangers) team and canine unit to help protect the environment, visitor safety and crime prevention on the TMNP, there have been positive results.

“All Rangers conduct regular foot patrols in the Park with a particular focus on high hit counts and crime hotspots… In conjunction with SAPS, Law Enforcement CoCT and stakeholders such as the Table Mountain Honorary Rangers, the Take Back Our Mountain volunteer group, and neighborhood watch groups, private security services and other stakeholders.”

“Crime statistics range from one to seven incidents recorded annually in most areas, but the problem is that these are violent crimes that have resulted in loss of life,” SANParks said.

An avid track runner, Andrew Travis, who has covered over 1,700km in the TMNP this year, said, “I don’t see marshals on the tracks… SANParks don’t appear to be maintaining or clearing any tracks. The only place I can be sure to find SANParks staff The entry fee at Silvermine or at the office when I go to get my activity permit is charged once a year.”

Trail users were forced to step up

Frustrated by the lack of action, Friends of Table Mountain (FoTM) have taken it upon themselves to rehabilitate trails and remove invasive alien species.

trail mountain table
A section of Suther Peak recently rehabilitated by the Friends of Table Mountain and Honorary Rangers. (Photo: Eli Curtis)

Trail runner and FoTM member Ellie Courts said, “We’ve just seen the trails get more and more sloppy and broken and nothing happens even though we’ve been asking and tagging and listing, trying to be helpful. So we decided to do something ourselves. “

The courts have made it clear that they worked with the TMNP by using honorary guards as intermediaries between companies and individuals who could donate and those who had the knowledge and skill to build the trails. Rehabilitating Devil’s Peak Trails was their first attempt – it took two years of negotiating with the TMNP before they got started.

Since last year, FoTM, along with honorary rangers and “Trail Apostles,” have been rehabilitating Corridor Ravine, Rooikat, Nursery Ravine and Suther Peak trails. They have been helped by fundraising initiatives, individual donors, and working clubs.

When asked why the paths were not maintained, SANParks said that it has implemented an infrastructure maintenance programme, funded by the Ministry of Tourism since 2019, and that it has maintained 233 kilometers of footpaths and employed six small and medium-sized companies.

“Maintenance within the park is an ongoing process and requires time and coordination to get to all priority areas as quickly as possible,” SANParks said. Daily Maverick.

Biodiversity is in danger

William Boschoff Newlands Forest Conservation Group Tell Daily Maverick that, in terms of biodiversity, their greatest concern is scale Bark stripping Illegal bark cutting mostly from native trees, used in traditional medicine.

Mountain bark stripping table
Large-scale bark stripping from native trees in Newlands Forest, part of Table Mountain National Park. This illegal harvest, mostly from indigenous trees, is used in traditional medicine. (photo: Table Mountain Friends)

“Sometimes, I say even almost on an industrial scale,” Boschoff said.

“The result of bark stripping is that it causes trees to die, and parts of the forest to collapse.”

Some species are targeted, Boschoff said, such as the stinkwood—which is nearly extinct in the park—asigai, Cape holly, and Cape beech, which is “a kind of forest backbone … one of the most common native trees that grows to a sufficient height to form a canopy.”

The circular bark of a tree—take bark from the periphery—is “a death sentence to the tree,” Boschoff said….Bark protects trees and the layer between the bark on the wood is the living part of the tree that transfers nutrients to the leaves. If that system is broken, the tree you die “.

Once these trees die, there are spillover effects. Many large trees (around 70-100 years old) are targeted for bark, so when they die and fall, they do a lot of damage to the surrounding trees. When they fall, they can open part of the tree canopy, exposing and drying out the forest floor.

“The lack of canopies and trees also creates a space where the invaders get a foothold in the native forest,” Boschoff said. “And over time, there is a change in the forest, as it dries up…you have more invasive species and you have a lot more deadwood around.”

Table Mountain
Due to the lack of maintenance by SANParks, many trails in Table Mountain National Park have fallen into disrepair, including missing or broken trail segments, or those with protruding spikes. (photo: Table Mountain Friends)

Fire hazards

“This is a recipe for wildfire.” Boshoff says Southern native forest afrotembers DIt does not burn easily and form natural fires.

“We have a catastrophic fire risk developing on the slopes of Table Mountain because you have a forest full of dead wood and the canopy is removed — so it dries up and you have gases, and gases burn more easily. A lot of it comes from biomes that require fire for plants to regenerate, like pine trees and blue gums.” .

For a long time the Newlands Forest was not considered a major fire hazard, Boshoff said The remote southern forest is an effective fire break, but this is now changing with the forest losing its native trees.

Invasive alien species

“The problem with invasives is not just that they’re an alien species… An invasive species is a species that grows and spreads much more effectively than a native species,” Boschoff explained, “so they really start to take over the habitat that the natural vegetation is supposed to occupy.”

“Now that’s bad in itself, but I think it’s especially bad considering that fynbos biomes are so rare and precious. The type of fynbos found on the slopes around the Newlands Forest are some of the rarest fynbos in the world.”

SANParks says it has implemented the TMNP’s Water Action Program since 1999 and has invested R291 million in alien vegetation removal.

Due to the lack of maintenance by SANParks, many of the trails in Table Mountain National Park have fallen into disrepair, including missing segments of the boardwalk, being broken and nails appearing. (photo: Table Mountain Friends)

Boshoff said SANParks relies heavily on contractors to remove alien species, who don’t necessarily follow through, so the species grow back.

“You now have nonprofits, like the Sugarbird Trust, who’ve done an incredible job over the last 13 years. They’ve got permission from SANParks to degassing and keep track of where they’ve been working…they go and do the follow-up. And right now we have a five-man team. They work in Newlands Forest, that’s great – it creates jobs.

“But this has to be primarily managed and led by Table Mountain National Park, and they don’t.” DM/OBP


Leave a Comment