Since its successful campaign to scrap the proposed mall at Princess Vlei, the Princess Vlei Forum has been working with the City of Cape Town to transform Princess Vlei into a vibrant nature, heritage and community park. This transformation has been guided by the vision formulated through workshops, surveys, and other community engagement as part of the Forum’s Imagine Princess Vlei project.
The vision that emerged from this process was for a park that:
- creates a haven for wilderness and natural beauty
- provides space for environmentally sensitive recreational activities
- provides a learning and recreational space for youth
- honours cultural heritage and provides a space for cultural practices.
The views of all sectors of local and broader communities were canvassed, and incorporated into a Conceptual Development Framework drawn up by the City.
On August 5, the Princess Vlei Forum and the City of Cape Town launched the completion of Phase One of the proposed transformation.
The first phase of the Princess Vlei Park, completed at a cost of about R893 000, includes an entrance gateway and walls to create a sense of arrival. It also includes a pedestrian pathway which terminates in a timber viewing deck overlooking the vlei, and a paved multi-purpose parking area.
The event began with the planting of over 250 plants, many of which are part of the Cape Flats Sand Fynbos or Strandveld species. ‘This project benefits the ecosystem health of Princess Vlei by increasing the biodiversity of the site, helping to provide food and shelter for insect, birds and other animals. Perennial vegetation cover is also more desirable than the annual grass cover on much of the rest of the site, in that it prevents wind erosion and facilitates better infiltration and decreases evaporation when it rains, and filters water before it enters the vlei,’ said Stuart Hall, botanist and Princess Vlei Forum man com member.
The plants, donated by the Table Mountain Fund, were planted by community volunteers, Forum members, and members of the Lion’s Club.
The group was then addressed by various City Council and Forum members. In Introducing the speakers, ward councilor Kevin Southgate said that he hoped by inviting the Mayco members to the event to encourage them to give the project support.
Ald. J.P Smith, Mayco member for Safety and Security and Social Services, commended the Forum and the community for the fight put up to save the vlei. ‘This is a beautiful space with a spectacular view across the water and it would have been a great pity to see it go otherwise.’
Ald Smith encouraged the community to take ownership of the completed and proposed developments at Princess Vlei, saying that community usage was also the best protection against criminal activity at the Vlei. ‘People must start positively using this space, start walking here. We need a board walk to get people to start walking here, because that passive surveillance is effected by every activity you have here and every program you run here, will displace the criminal activity…. I give my commitment to helping initiatives to create a more integrated space, and to create other facilities here to draw people and make this a fun, active and enjoyable space for everybody.’
Ald Smith said that the City was committed to having ten Expanded Public Works Program workers deployed at Princess Vlei until the end of 2017, and that Park Rangers would be contracted from a private security company to patrol Princess Vlei.
Cllr Eddie Andrews – Mayco Member for Area Based South, City of Cape Town - thanked the stake holders and Forum members for their passion and commitment. He assured the gathering that he, together with Ald. Smith and Cllr Southgate, would ensure that traction was maintained on the project going forward.
Cllr Stuart Diamond, (Mayco member for Assets and Facilities Management) commented that the project was testimony to what can happen when a community opens up their voice and speaks, and is heard. He complimented Cllr Kevin Southgate for sharing the community’s passion, and for encouraging Mayco members, who control the purse, to open up their hearts and make a long term commitment to see that a sustainable project flourishes.
Forum Deputy Chairperson, Gary Stewart, spoke about the future priorities identified by the community for Princess Vlei, which include a play park, walkway around the vlei, upgraded braai areas, an inerpretation center and a craft market. He spoke of the vlei’s significance to community members, many of whom have nostalgic memories of picnicking and fishing there. ‘The vlei also has heritage significance – the well-known legend of the Khoi princess helps people to reconnect with their cultural heritage. The vlei is currently being used to teach youth about their environment and their heritage.’
‘I want to say to Mayco members that if you invest in this space, the returns are worth a lot more than the money you are investing. When you invest in this space you not only get a site which has great impact on people’s lives, but you also get the donated efforts of all these volunteers.’
Stewart thanked Cllr Southgate and City operational officials for their contribution to the project, and said that the Forum had raised the funds to employ a manager and assistant at Princess Vlei for three years, and to conduct environmental education programs for local schools, and for community members.
Philip Bam, Forum Chairperson, thanked all the many supporters who fought for Princess Vlei.
The event concluded with a walk to the western side of the vlei guided by Stuart Hall. Hall pointed out a number of flourishing indigenous species, some of which had grown themselves, and others that have been planted by community members and school children as part of the Forum’s program to rehabilitate the vlei’s natural systems.
On the walk, Khoi John Lewin pointed out Wild Dagga and ‘Hondeoor’ - Cotyledon
Orbiculata – which had been planted by school children in June this year. ‘My grandmother used to use these herbs. Wild Dagga you can drink, the leaves of Hondeoor you cut open and rub on sores.
‘I grew up in Raapkraal, near Pollsmoor prison. We used to come here on weekends. I was baptized here.’
Khoi Clive van Diemen said their Khoi heritage was important to them. ‘It is not about race or colour. It is about culture and discovering who we are and where we come from. When we come to the end of our lives our children should know who we are and where we come from. That is why we came.
‘We have memories of the Princess Vlei. We fished, ate, swam the whole day and slept here. We were never hungry. We saw the baptisms and heard the sermons of the preachers.
‘We want to know our Khoi heritage. Not be regarded as so-called Coloureds. Today we buried one of our elders. It taught us that the older generation is passing away. Soon they will never be able to tell us where they came from. My parents could tell me where their flower gardens were and where they collected water from the vlei.
‘That is why we are here, to make a contribution. We want to get to know Princess Vlei and build a legacy. We appreciate each one who has made a contribution here and we have grateful hearts.’
The Princess Vlei Forum will continue to strive to elevate the status of the Princess Vlei Park, and to leverage private and public funds to enhance its value to nature conservation and the Cape Town community. The Forum would like to urge the private sector to contribute to this exciting development.