The workshop on the Rondebosch stretch of the Liesbeek was very instructive. We walked from the Rondebosch Library towards the river via the Belmont Office Park. I was very interested to hear that this area had been a flour mill in the past and that trains used to bring the grain in to be milled. We walked past the Pick and Pay parking area and felt that this area had been poorly designed and no consideration had been given to the potential of the river frontage. Instead the parking area encroached on river frontage and the shop loading bays created an unattractive and polluted space. Continuous abuse of the open space along Belmont Road and the ramp into the Liesbeek by vagrants has made this area unsanitary and unsafe. Residents and pedestrians often have to negotiate groups of up to six vagrants in this area, and human faeces and garbage are a revolting sight.
Crossing Belmont Road is hazardous even at the traffic lights and once across we again were amazed that the Liesbeek Trail was squeezed between the new apartment development and the canal banks. Although this area has always been maintained by the LMP team, much damage has been done to the plantings due to the building activities. Walking along the path we noticed the poorly designed exit to the new development which is directly on the Liesbeek trail. This is also where dustbins will be collected and the narrow road and sharp corner will cause a dangerous and unsanitary situation. The neighbours fronting on this have definitely lost property value and the general area is showing neglect. Further along building contraventions and encroachment on the road go unpunished, a sad trend for Rondebosch. This is especially worrisome as Rondebosch also has a special heritage area which seems to have little value to developers.
Walking over the pretty blue and white bridge on the way to Roslyn Park was a pleasure and we were glad that the path had finally been resurfaced properly. A resident said the path was well-used but also that pedestrians were using the large trees along it as toilet areas. Further along, past another apartment development again designed to use river frontage as parking and not capitalising on the calming greenery of the Liesbeek , we sympathised with the residents who have to tolerate another seven story building going up a few metres away, albeit a bit further from the river this time. This area is being irrevocably changed from a charming single residential area to large apartment blocks, unfortunately with no increase in access roads or facilities.
The wooden bridge over the Liesbeek across from the convent is damaged and needs to be repaired urgently. The num-num hedge requires better management and possible removal and replanting as the visibility is poor, and residents feel unsafe. There is a large stand of Spanish Reed (an invasive alien species) which needs to be removed. The bridge at Rouwkoop Road has been damaged as well, with parts having been pushed into the river. On the other side the LMP have planted lots of suurvygies to replace the grass and the lighting installed along the next section has addressed some of the safety issues. Residents on the other side of the river obviouslyhave a problem with maintenance of the river bank and vagrants are using the area. Here communication and co-operation with residents would allow the LMP Team to solve some of the issues.
On our return to the Library the participants filled in cards with what their vision would be of the river in 10 years time. Some of these thoughts included a people-friendly as well as a nature-friendly river; public awareness; signage; de-canalisation; a safe, well-demarcated walking and cycling route; lots of groundcover and trees, less shrubbery; and a historical trail. These thoughts can only be realised through consistent community engagement and activism – join us in protecting and improving the Liesbeek.