Active citizens deliver Nelson Mandela Bay river crossing

BAAKENS CROSSING: Opening the new footbridge at the bottom of Thomas Road are, from left, FatTracks chair Andrew Rist, Toby's Motors co-owners John Parry and Paul Leese, and Wilderness Foundation Africa CEO Andrew Muir
BAAKENS CROSSING: Opening the new footbridge at the bottom of Thomas Road are, from left, FatTracks chair Andrew Rist, Toby's Motors co-owners John Parry and Paul Leese, and Wilderness Foundation Africa CEO Andrew Muir
Image: FREDLIN ADRIAAN

Active citizens are doing it for the Bay.

That was the prevailing theme this week at the unveiling of a new river crossing in Port Elizabeth’s Baakens River Valley.

The simple but sturdy bridge comprising four large cement pipes and a gabion basket has been installed on the Baakens River at the bottom of Thomas Road, just upstream from Target Kloof.

Andrew Rist, chair of FatTracks mountain bike club, which drove the project, said it was  an important thoroughfare for people walking to work as well as walkers, joggers, cyclists and birders, and municipal work teams and rangers.

“This point is downstream from where the Klein Kabega tributary comes in, so after a bit of rain the level does swell here quite a bit.

“The old bridge included pallets which had submerged into the river and it was in bad shape.

“Our aim was to make things easier for the people already using the valley and hopefully boost the traffic of law-abiding folk still more, who can be our eyes and ears in the valley for illegal actions like dumping of trash, for instance.”

The structure, dubbed Toby’s Crossing after sponsor Toby’s Motors Freshstop Caltex service station, would not block the flow of water or the movement of indigenous fish and would hopefully enhance the metro’s unique green lung for years to come, he said.

Wilderness Foundation CEO and president of the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber, Andrew Muir, applauded the installation which was done in line with a memorandum of understanding with the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality and a partnership between FatTracks and Toby’s Motors.

“There are just a handful of cities around the world that have a river valley forming a green lung winding through the centre of them and Nelson Mandela Bay is the only city in the world where this green lung can boast four to five biomes or broad habitat types.”

This was important in terms of recreation and tourism potential and as a cornerstone for renewable energy, sustainable development and urban wellbeing, and also as a buffer against climate change and biodiversity loss, he said.

“Around the world we are seeing this phenomenon where green lungs are under threat, and active citizens and business are co-operating to support the authorities and working to enhance and protect these areas.”

“The Baakens is Nelson Mandela Bay’s New York Central Park and it’s a privilege to be here unveiling this little bridge because this is the way we need to do things moving forward.”

Toby’s Motors co-owner John Parry said he and his partner, Paul Leese, had put in about R20,000 for the Thomas Road bridge project.

The proximity of the service station and their own homes made it a good project for them to get involved in, he said.

“ John and I also both exercise in the valley and we can see its potential, so we’re happy to be involved.”

Rist said FatTracks had initiated and driven the project in line with an agreement from the metro aimed at repairing the 15km Guinea Fowl Trail that runs through the valley, including 15 crossings.

“Continental gave us an initial donation to tackle the trail and we have done four bridges at Dormy Place, Dodds Farm, Target Kloof and now here at the bottom of Thomas Road with sponsorship from Shakuma, FatTracks and Toby’s Motors.

“We’re already seeing the growth in the numbers of people enjoying the valley so we’re very excited.”

The four ended the event by planting a cheesewood to go with the half a dozen other indigenous trees planted by FatTracks along the approach path and to complement the deck above the bridge installed by the metro.

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