Anthony John Bowen, Wilderness Heights:
I refer to the article 'New entrance for hikers to Groeneweide Forest opens this weekend' (George Herald, 1 April).
The article dealt primarily with the new access point for the established hiking trails in the forest, arranged by SANParks. I am sure all hikers are most grateful for this.
The article went on to report on a "complaint about closed gate", referring to the access through the property known as "Idille" on the Seven Passes road between Saasveld and Wilderness. As the article reported, this has recently been blocked to public access. Furthermore, the article quoted "Idille's owner, Chris McDonald, said the public has never had right of way over the property, only CapeNature and Eskom".
This statement does not give the complete situation, to the detriment of the public.
The Surveyor-General diagram for the Idille property shows a registered road servitude 10m wide. Clearly this is necessary to enable the custodians of the state forest and the mountain nature reserve above to gain access through the Idille property to fulfil their statutory obligations, for example for forest maintenance, firefighting etc. It is not intended to enable the general public to drive vehicles into the forestry road network, and it is in order that the vehicle gate be kept locked by the custodians.
However, alongside the wide vehicle gate there is a narrow pedestrian gate, shown in the photograph.
The closure in the manner shown, using razor wire, took place in February this year.
This pedestrian route has been there since time immemorial, probably since the days of the woodcutters nearly a hundred years ago. It has long become an established and well-known public right of way. This right of way is a separate matter to the registered road servitude and dealt with under different laws. By way of example, the many unregistered routes used by fishermen to gain access to the coast are comparable. It is illegal for any property owner to block access to these established pedestrian rights of way, and being illegal, it would not be an offense for anyone to remove the barricade.
The Seven Passes road is a national monument, and admired for its scenic beauty by locals and international tourists alike. Installing a razor wire barricade to both the gate and the pedestrian entrance is an act of desecration. It is reminiscent of concentration camps and inner city security measures, and has no place whatsoever along the Seven Passes Road.
I therefore call upon the property owner and SANParks to remove the ugly razor wire and re-instate the pedestrian right of way.
Finally, no harm can come by allowing cyclists to use the network of forestry roads. Signage should be put up to restrict cycles to the forestry roads and disallow them from using the sensitive footpaths within the forest.
These concerns have already been made by me to SANParks management (the dominant rights owner over the road servitude), regrettably to no avail.
Therefore I also call upon affected members of the public to tie ribbons of protest to the razor wire barricade to the pedestrian entrance.
See the article about Idille that includes SANParks' comment elsewhere in the paper.
George Herald was told that Idille's owner could not be contacted as he is travelling in an area with no cellphone reception.