19 Nov 2015 Trails, crime and more: What’s happening on Table Mountain?
The recent spate of robberies in the Rhodes Memorial area, plus the armed robbery on Goolam Hassan at a previously identified crime hotspot (below Plum Pudding Hill), has galvanised the cycling community into demanding action from the authorities. Cyclists and the other users of the mountain simply don’t feel safe anymore and it is high time we understand what SanParks are doing to keep us safe.
Following on this, I this week had a meeting with Wana Bacela, Area Manager of the Northern Section of Table Mountain National Park. The agenda included visitor safety, new trails and the maintenance of existing trails.
In response to previous attacks a few years ago, the Table Mountain Safety Forum (TMSF) was formed under the chairmanship of the then-MEC for Safety & Security, Albert Fritz. The Forum is made up of SanParks, SAPS, CCID, Metro & Traffic police, Cape Town Tourism, Safety & Security, Economic Development, as well as a number of civic organisations such The Hikers Network, Table Mountain Watch, trail running groups and the cycling community.
After crime – specifically crime against cyclists – “went away” in 2013, the Forum did not meet again until the incidents on the mountain started increasing a few months ago.
The commitment was then made to meet every month, irrespective of whether there was crime to deal with or not. A TMSF ‘What’s App’ group was set up in order for the management and operational staff of each organisation to share information quickly and efficiently, cutting out the chatter. From this group, each stakeholder spreads the information to their respective communities.
The successful arrest of two suspects this week, within an hour of the group being notified, proves that there is merit in the system. The spotlight remains on each agency in the chain to fulfill their mandate, resulting in a conviction.
Back to yesterday’s meeting.
On an operational level, SanParks are stretched as they have a total of 58 rangers that patrol the Park. Some of those might be on leave or off sick , which can bring the available daily complement of rangers down to 21-25.
Looking at the numbers from a cyclist’s perspective, SanParks are still able to deploy enough rangers in the cycling area. There are 5 rangers on bicycles as well as 2 rangers on motorbikes that patrol the area from Signal Hill to Newlands Forest. There are also teams of 2 rangers deployed at Lion’s Head, Platteklip and in the Rhodes Memorial precinct.
As we know from riding, this is still a large area to cover and we need to understand that the rangers can’t be everywhere at once. There will be gaps in coverage and this is where the criminals may strike. Criminals are watching the movements of the rangers as well as our movements, their potential victims.
HOW CAN WE HELP?
The area manager asked how we, the community, can assist San Parks in making the park a safe space to enjoy. There are ways in which we could help.
- Join the SanParks Honorary Rangers and become part of a volunteer group that the parks rangers can call on for assistanc. Any funds donated to the Honorary Rangers are used 100% for the purpose they were donated for. Money donated for trail maintenance, will be used for trail maintenance and nothing else.
- Form a Mountain Watch. Similar to a Neighbourhood Watch, we become the eyes and ears that offer support to the rangers. The idea would be to purchase 2-way radios that allow you to communicate with the rangers directly, shortening response time. Carry the radio on the bike, when you’re running or going for a walk and stay in touch. A radio network on the mountain leads to greater coverage with the public ascting as observers for the San Parks rangers. The space for criminals to operate in gets smaller and more uncomfortable.
TRAIL DEVELOPMENT AND MAINTENANCE
The area manager also mentioned that he would like to see some trail development in Deer Park. This was music to my ears as so much of the cycling trail network has been lost due to the extended closure of Tokai. Riders are moving further afield and looking for places to ride and placing severe strain on the reamining network. Additional trails in Deer Park would help to ease the pressure on what’s left to ride.
The request was made to look at building a kids/beginner trail in Deer Park, alongside extending the existing trails. A site meeting will most likely happen next week and I am hopeful that approval will follow soon after.
The Cecilia Forest single track and jeep track to Constantia Nek is back on the agenda and the commitment was made that it would be opened after Cape Pine/MTO has completed a 6-week tree-felling program in early 2016. This is fantastic news.
Trail maintenance will commence along the Plum Pudding to Rhodes Memorial trail at the end of November and be completed in early December. We will also be maintaining some of the jeep tracks in the area that are heavily used by cyclists.
Yours in cycling
PPA Chief Executive Officer
17 November 2015
Venue: San Parks office, Signal Hill Road