This article first appeared in the 27 June 2022 edition of the Cape Argus newspaper.
Cape Town - The restoration of the Helderberg Nature Reserve was well on its way after the reserve was severely affected by the floods and fires in the Western Cape two weeks ago.
The City has since completed a full assessment of the damage and hoped to reopen the reserve on August 1.
Western Cape Working On Fire (WOF) spokesperson Limakatso Khalianyane said more than 100 firefighters, a helicopter and a spotter plane was deployed to assist with fire suppression efforts in Lourensford, Somerset West, two weeks ago but the strong gale force winds drew the flames to the Helderberg Nature Reserve and some parts of the Cape Winelands.
This resulted in numerous homes and properties being destroyed and caused significant environmental damage that led to the closure of the nature reserve.
Deputy mayor and spatial planning and environment Mayco member Eddie Andrews said: “Since the fire earlier this month, the biodiversity management team responsible for the management of this protected area has completed a full assessment of the reserve to determine the extent of damage to the hiking trail network.”
Andrews said there was significant damage to the upper section of the Helderberg Mountain where the trails accessing West Peak and the Dome were completely burned out.
“The additional heavy rains post-fire have also caused what was left of the trails to be washed out. As such, the trails are no longer visible, making the area unsafe and extremely dangerous for hikers at this stage,” Andrews said.
Besides the structural damage to various benches and water bars on the trails, Andrews said a number of large trees and bushes blocked the paths which posed a danger to hikers that frequented these trails.
He encouraged the public to adhere to the safety precautions and not to hike in these areas as the lack of definable trails would cause hikers to create their own paths that would end up contributing to erosion and trample sensitive vegetation.
“There has been an overwhelming interest in the reserve and its recovery as the team has been working towards reopening. The safety of of our visitors is our main priority and we will reopen as soon as the most areas have been made safe for public use,” Andrews said.