A Sunridge Park couple has waded into the Baakens River Valley boots and all, determined to breathe new life into their bit of Port Elizabeth’s labouring green lung.
Baakens Valley Preservation Trust member and retired businessman Vince Jearey said yesterday he and his wife, Mariette, were determined to keep the ball rolling following the Weekend Post’s series of features last month highlighting the Baakens’s multiple problems and possibilities.
“We’re trying for metro support but, in the meantime, together with [fellow trust member] Steff Schenk we’re just going ahead ourselves, and making a difference bit by bit,” he said.
Veteran valley walkers, the Jeareys and Schenk joined the Weekend Post expedition team for sections of the trek from the source to the mouth of the Baakens.
During the leg from Sunridge to the William Moffett Expressway, the Jeareys highlighted the problems posed by the unregulated tree-felling industry – and they had identified this issue as their initial focus for action, Jearey said yesterday.
“These guys drive their bakkies anywhere they like, and leave behind their plastic bags, bottles and other rubbish all over the place,” he said.
The tree-fellers target the towering alien bluegums in the Gazania Avenue area and, after they fell them, use a spot beneath two large yellowwoods, estimated to be 85 to 100 years old, to chop the bluegum logs up.
“The yellowwood is a protected tree and our environmental law says you are not allowed to disturb a protected tree, let alone damage it, which could happen if they made a mistake with one of their axes or chainsaws,” Jearey said.
He said that, assisted by a small team of workers, they had started by removing the rubbish left behind by the tree-fellers. They were hoping that the metro would act to help prevent the rubbish from quickly mushrooming again.
“There are three points in Sunridge where you can drive a bakkie into the valley. This access needs to be stopped,” Jearey said.
“The metro also needs to redraft the protocol under which tree-felling permits are issued and stipulate that these guys must not leave their rubbish behind.”
Also, the metro needed to monitor the tree-felling and ensure that permit conditions were being adhered to, he said.
“They need to police the situation to see that they [tree-fellers] are not leaving rubbish behind, that they are felling only permitted exotic species and that they are not disturbing or damaging indigenous plants or trees,” Jearey said.
Metro spokesman Mthubanzi Mniki said suggestions that encouraged sustainable development were well received and the public health directorate would seek to engage with the stakeholders behind the permit ideas.