A resident and her two dogs enjoying their usual exercise in Tokai Forest. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency
Cape Town - In spite of a court case preventing South African National Parks from chopping down pine trees in Tokai Forest, community activists say SANParks is intent on doing just that.

In a 2018 court case where the matter was settled in favour of retaining the trees for shade, community-based organisation Parkscape and South African National Parks (SANParks) continue to be at loggerheads over the chopping down of the pine trees in Tokai Forest.

The chairperson of Parkscapes, Nicky Schmidt, said: “I think the bottom line of the problem is that Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) is an urban national park and it is largely being managed on the lines of a rural national park. It is being managed by legislation and protocols unsuited to an urban national park.”

At the heart of the matter is the issue of shade provided by the controversial pine trees which were the subject of an agreement between the two bodies hammered out in a 2018 court judgement.

Schmidt said, “The agreement had been to retain shade for recreational purposes. I want to make it clear that we’re not pine huggers. We believe that in an urban environment, people do need shade in which to recreate. Particularly older people or families with young children.”

“If SANParks follows the international biodiversity protocols, which they say they are doing, we will end up with no shade under which people can recreate and we are also going to end up with a whole lot of urban drivers like the urban heat island effect (which is when an urban area or metropolitan area that is significantly warmer than its surrounding rural areas due to human activities) which could have been mitigated by providing shade.”

Schmidt said SanParks was refusing to talk to them about the trees.

“Engagement with certain members of senior management at SANParks remains problematic. Regrettably, we are currently experiencing a freeze on communication with all staff - because we insist on holding SANParks to account.

“We understand that a new park manager is expected to start on December 1, and we sincerely hope that this will introduce a more constructive period of engagement with SANParks,” said Schmidt.

Recreational users currently regularly engage in activities such as walking, hiking, walkers accompanied by dogs, mountain biking, trail running, horse riding, mountain climbing, etc.

According to SANParks’s management plan for TMNP, “There are opportunities for sustainable tourism growth as an enabler for economic development, while addressing the high demand for making the park accessible to residents to accommodate a wide variety of lifestyle-based outdoor and recreational activities.”

When asked for a comment, the City of Cape Town, that leases the park to SANParks, referred us to SANParks who did not respond to our questions.

@MwangiGithahu

[email protected]

Cape Argus