As Johannesburg City Parks and community organisations battle red tape, apathy and shrinking access to funds to keep the city’s parks clean, City Parks has threatened to set the cops on residents trying to tidy up their local park, while others lie derelict.
Efforts to maintain Buchner Lonehill Park are at a standstill as City Parks’ corporate funding manager Bohlale Mohlathe has laid down the law.
“You also need to understand that if there are no proper controls and if you just do as you like, you present us with no choice but to request the intervention of law enforcement authorities so that there can be order,” Mohlathe stated in a terse response to Gavin Borrageiro, organiser of the refurbishment at Buchner Lonehill Park.
Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo spokesperson Jenny Moodley said parks could not be bought because they were designated public open spaces and should be benefited by the whole city.
“An evaluation was done by City Parks in the Buncher [Lonehill] Park to measure the worth of the work done. It stated there was not enough evidence to match the claims made of the money spent on the plants and there were no signs of employees who were hired to work in the park during the week,” Moodley said.
The current argument is like the one of The Wilds, located on the base of the Parktown ridge on the boundary of Houghton and Killarney. According to the Joburg.org website, the land was donated to the then City Council by the Johannesburg Consolidated Investment Company in 1924 on condition it remained in its natural state.
“It opened to the public in 1938 and was dedicated to the memory of Jan Smuts following his death in 1950. “It was declared a national monument in 1981,” the site stated.
And putting The Wilds back into a space residents could be proud of has been a mammoth task for the Friends of the Wilds and, apparently, there are still issues being negotiated which is why, for the moment, eco-activist James Daly is keeping mum on the matter.
“City Park owns more than 2,000 private spaces in the city,” Moodley said.
“The Lonehill residences have about five available to them in the area. There is no reason for these residents to complain because many other areas do not have the luxury of a safe space.”
Moodley said when residents come across issues in parks, they should raise them with their ward councillors, who will escalate concerns to the relevant organisations and funds would be allocated for whatever was need. This should be their course of action before addressing the issues with the media, he said.
Except, as Borrageio pointed out to The Citizen, a local ward councillor was approached with no response, the residents’ association was blaming City Parks for not fulfilling its end of the service level agreement and while parties entrenched themselves even further in their positions, parks around the city continued to deteriorate.
The Frank Brown Park in Milpark was a sore sight for some community members because of incomplete work by contractors. There was no barrier between Empire Road and the skate ramp and the storm water drain was left uncovered for any small child to fall in to, among other issues.
“We are proud of our community members who show interest in taking care of the city’s parks because it reduces the amount of litter and vandalism in our parks,” Moodley said.
And yet, somewhere, somehow, City Parks and residents are missing each other in a way which could affect further projects between civil society and local government.
–email@example.com, additional reporting by Amanda Watson