Centenary Park Serenity

IDYLLIC: Rowing boats on the Kowie River opposite Centenary Park

‘Green lung’ stays intact despite plans to develop it

ONE of the last “green lungs” of Port Alfred, Centenary Park crops up every few years as potential adventurers seek to invade this historical entity with plans that range from housing to water-wonderlands, citing all the political correctness that is so prevalent today.

SERENDIPITY ... with Bev Young
… with Bev Young

Many plans and documents have been forwarded to the municipality, showing artistic concepts of a magnitude that dazzles one on seeing them. They are always filled with the tired buzzwords of inclusion, additional rates for the coffers and “what this can do for tourism in Port Alfred”. They are all similar – showing boating, jetties and people frolicking along the banks of the river.

Fortunately, none in the past was acceptable, and currently, with presentations made to the council, our exquisite asset will remain as is. This positive feature, with its over 200 bird species, indigenous flora, and breeding area for the fish, is safe. Sadly, most of the indigenous animal life has been hunted out.

One has to ask oneself, seeing this area was so valuable, why did the 1820 settlers not make use of it? Well, when the first intrepid business type migrated down from Grahamstown they had the colossal, backbreaking job, of blasting a road from the top of the hill, down to Wharf Street. For them, one imagines, looking across at the flooded plains, and incredible growth of the trees, it was easier to make use of the flatter areas.

Skip a few years, they found a use for certain areas in the forest, as sewage became a major hazard in the bustling village, and by now, the “bucket – system ” was in use. Wagons would go around the village night collecting the filled buckets and dumping the contents into a designated area in the centre portion of the land.

Later, insightful engineers, on recognising the imminent danger of raw sewage, constructed concrete tanks with filtration, so that after a period of time, this clear water would seep back into the land. One imagines, back into the river too. The concrete structures are still there. The unused sewage grounds have become a magnificent forest, with the odd wily cattle owner from the housing above here, using the grazing.

During the course of the century, a quarry was allowed, now closed and a really amusing item. The municipality used some sections as a dump for the gigantic structure when they blasted the old Putt Bridge and the new one was constructed. Not as sad as it sounds, history hiding history. The era of picnicking, boat races and fishing all had their place, but more recently, the area became a crime-hotspot and all tourism attractions there are lost. One has to ask oneself why we need another marina type area.

Why we humans cannot simply leave the beauteous areas alone. There are new strict laws pertaining to development, from forestry laws to sand-mining, to the welcome laws regarding construction – within 20m of the water ’s edge. Added to this, a serious blackout of building jetties.

One is comforted too by the fact that in order to put forward a concept of development such as this, an environmental impact assessment has to be undertaken, which can take up to two to four years and is very costly. Once done, it is published for approval by the public and if there are more than two objections.

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