This was the message of the community members who gathered at the Princess Vlei Open Day in Grassy Park on the evening of March 27.
Five years ago, the Princess Vlei Forum launched a community campaign to create a vision for the space through workshops, surveys, and discussion. This vision has been revisited with communities regularly, and has guided our engagement with the City of Cape Town to leverage resources and implement improvements.
These include a children’s adventure play park, which will shortly be erected on the eastern shore, and a walkway/ jogging track to circumnavigate the vlei. The proposed track offers a five kilometre trail, and will be suitable for use as a Park run.
Draft concept plans with proposed improvements to the Princess Vlei Eco-adventure centre on the Western shore were also presented for comment.
Alex Lansdowne, a fynbos restoration expert who has been contracted by the Princess Vlei Forum, spoke about the five-year restoration plan through which the Forum plans to restore the natural ecosystems on site.
Also on display were plans and a model showing a small pavilion to be used as a classroom, exhibition space or tearoom. The Princess Vlei Forum is currently exploring ways to fund this initiative.
A video featuring interviews with people around the Legend of the Princess, was also screened to launch an Oral History Project to capture the Vlei’s rich cultural heritage – an initiative of the Princess Vlei Heritage Committee.
An important proposal currently being explored is holding a regular ‘pop-up’ market. A group discussion on this generated valuable guidelines. Important among these were that the market should
- reflect the unique character of the site
- express the identity and interests of local communities give local artists tan opportunity to promote and sell their art
- provide a platform for educating a broader audience on the heritage, culture and traditions of the surrounding communities.
- Educate communities on health & well-being through proper nutrition using locally produced, organic, affordable produce.
The other group discussed ways to protect the Princess Vlei from threats posed by dumping, vandalism, illegal vehicle use, sand mining, vagrancy and other anti-social activity. Recently, the Forum has raised funds to employ a full time manager, and the City has deployed twenty-four hour specialised rangers. While these interventions have greatly alleviated the problems, these activities remain an ongoing threat to efforts to rehabilitate and beautify the site.
The group considered the possibility of fencing all or part of the conservation area to minimise or eliminate these threats. It was agreed that any fencing must not impede access to those who want to enjoy the vlei’s natural beauty, and that community consultation is essential.
The group also raised the need to protect the site in the long term from the threat of inappropriate development. All agreed that while it was important to explore protective mechanisms such as acquiring heritage status, one of the best ways to protect the area is to restore its natural beauty and biodiversity, enhance its cultural heritage value and to continue promoting its value as a space for nature lovers and the general community.
We look forward to engaging with community members further on these issues. To find out more, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.