Cape Town – Dog walkers, cyclists, horse-riders and mountain users have slammed Table Mountain National Park’s draft management plan, saying it was “prohibitive”.
Attorney Neil van de Spuy was one of the 500-odd people who commented on the park’s plan before public participation on the proposal closed on Saturday.
In his submission, Van der Spuy said that when the park was created there was a condition that it would not be permitted to charge entrance fees at any point within its boundaries, except where it had charged before the establishment of the park. These are Cape Point, Boulder’s, Oudekraal and Silvermine.
“In its zest for financial income, the park seeks to overcome this restriction by charging very high entrance fees at the Cape Point section and various accommodation facilities, and for what is termed activity permits,” Van der Spuy wrote.
“Some of these charged activities – like walking of dogs – are very much resented and (cause) friction between parks officials who act in the manner of policemen rather than as friends of the users.”
The Pedal Power Association (PPA) has also weighed in with chairman Steve Hayward saying the park was being unreasonable by charging such steep tariffs.
To walk up to two dogs a person needs a Level 1 activity permit, which costs R225. The permits, which are valid for a year, are not interchangeable between family members, so additional members need to sign up for a multi-level card, which cost R85 each.
Level 2 activities – such as hang-gliding, paragliding and sport climbing – will cost R350, while Level 3 – which includes horse-riding, mountain biking and fishing – will be R460. Fishermen will also need a separate fishing permit from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
The permits have been in place for some time, but not everybody is aware of where or how to get them. The tariffs also increase annually.
Van der Spuy added that people had been accustomed for decades to walk their dogs in areas such as Constantia Nek, Newlands Forest and the many sections of beaches and coast where bathing does not take place.
“The park’s contention that dogs cause environmental damage is simply a guise to raise revenue by permit charges. There is no substance in it. Additionally, in the absence of adequate security services, dog walking becomes more significant.”
Hayward said the PPA was ploughing thousands of rand every year into maintaining mountain bike trails all over the park, yet its members were charged a premium to cycle there.
He said the PPA had also paid about R22 000 for a security dog, its training and food for a year to keep people safe on the mountain.
“When the city handed over the area to the park the free access was supposed to continue, so we’re feeling a bit peeved about having to pay these prohibitive rates.”
Tim Henderson, operations manager for Cape Town Tandem Paragliding, which uses Signal Hill and Lion’s Head, said each of their pilots had to have an activity permit.
He said the park also took a cut from every person who flew with them.
Each client has to pay a day pass of R25.
Henderson said he didn’t feel it was unreasonable because the money went towards maintenance of the sites.
Tony Trimmel, chairman of the Kalk Bay and St James Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association, said for people who wanted to do more than one activity – for example fish and walk dogs – the cost would add up.
Mark Wiley, the DA chief whip whose constituency is the Deep South, said he often got complaints about the high costs of the permits and he believed there needed to be more transparency about how the park’s funding costs were calculated.
Other issues raised by people were for the park to make its financial reports and minutes of all stakeholder meetings available on its website in terms of transparency.
Park manager Paddy Gordon said the permit system was not about making money but rather about making activities legal in terms of the National Environmental Management Act (Nema).
He said they had a responsibility to manage the park in a way that reduced impact and protected the environment. They also needed to create zones where different users didn’t come into conflict with each other.
He said the park’s income came from gate fees, not the permits.
Gordon added that although Tokai would probably remain closed to the public for some time because it was still unsafe, Slivermine would probably re-open within a few months.