SANParks ‘excludes more Capetonians from Table Mountain with entrance fee hikes’

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    By Mthuthuzeli Ntseku Post publication time October 30, 2020

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    CapeTown – Friends of Table Mountain (FOTM) lobby group questions the legality of SANParks’ access system, saying its annual hike in access and permit fees increases exclusions.

    FOTM President Andy Davies said more and more Capetonians are being excluded from their mountain as access rights and permits are increasing every year.

    This given that SANParks access fees are expected to increase on Sunday.

    He said that apart from hiking and trail running, activities such as horseback riding, mountain biking, dog walking, fishing and other activities at La Montagne National Park. Table (TMNP) were paid.

    He said he was concerned that many areas, such as the Boulders, Tokai and Newlands picnic sites, were freely accessible and all activities were free.

    “The default permit fees are exclusive – only those who can afford it can participate in certain activities.

    “The permit fees on events also result in high fees which have to be borne by the event organizers and which are then passed on to the participants – these costs have become more and more expensive – again resulting in exclusivity, in particular for underprivileged runners or cyclists, ”he told me.

    Davies said the FOTM believed activity permits were a reason for the breakdown of trust between the public and SANParks and a major reason for conflict between SANParks rangers and the public.

    Davies said what was even more concerning was the fact that the heads of the agreement between SANParks and the City of Cape Town said that SANParks would have to obtain prior written consent from the city before collecting an access fee. by members of the public.

    “The agreement also refers to the collection of fees at points where access fees are charged and states that these should be referred to the National Park Committee for review and recommendation.

    “The National Park Committee would refer to the Park Forum, however, which has been missing since 2009 and we have not been able to verify that these recommendations were ever made,” he said.

    Davies said the city claimed it never obtained prior written consent from SANParks for charging fees or annual increases in access and permit fees.

    He said that if SANParks did not follow the processes required by the heads of the agreement, it puts them in violation of the agreement, “and therefore the legality of the permit system must be questioned.”

    TrailWP president Ellie Courts said 14 races have been canceled in recent years, many with charity, as permit fees were getting too outrageous for organizers and runners to include permit fees in their registration fees.

    He said the license fee has impacted development work for different types of racing as the high fees exclude development runners and children.

    The courts have said many events taking place in the park now take place further away, resulting in an additional exclusion for people without transportation.

    Courts have said that many indigenous groups are also harassed and prevented from performing long-standing rituals and ceremonies fundamental to their culture.

    Anwar Adams, of the Hikers Paradise Adventure Club, said the permit system and access fees create a virtual fence around the park, letting in those who can afford it, preventing those who can’t.

    He said popular picnic sites like Tokai and Newlands are now costing a family of four a minimum of R124 at current rates.

    “And that’s before they paid for food and drink.

    “If they’re a family with a dog and want to walk their dog in Tokai or Newlands Forest, that’s another R305 a year.

    “And if they want to ride a bike or line fish in the park, it’s R 625 a year and another R270 for the extra family members.

    “Picnic fees at popular Cape Point sites like Buffels Bay are even higher,” he says.

    “SANParks only seem interested in what they can squeeze out of stakeholders and if you don’t have anything to offer you can have a proverbial hike,” Adams said.

    Davies said the FOTM raised its concerns in a meeting with the managing director of SANParks where it called for activity permits to be removed, but said there was no reaction from the direction of SANParks.

    Marian Nieuwoudt, Mayco member for land use planning and environment, said they are engaging with SANParks and “we cannot say more at this time.

    We will keep the public informed. “

    SANParks spokesperson Lauren Clayton said the organization’s primary mandate is conservation and any income generated by the park is used to fund SANParks, including conservation activities “such as clearing plants. alien invasives, fire management, velds rehabilitation and soil erosion, etc.

    “The contributions from the sale of activity permits contribute to the sustainability of the national parks which are part of this system.

    “The funds allocated to the TMNP for conservation activities are far greater than the money raised through the activity permit system.”

    Clayton added: “Recreational events on a commercial basis are permitted through a different system which requires permits, an environmental event management plan must be in place and are billed accordingly.

    “The activity permit is applicable on all land managed within the framework of the park notwithstanding the particular ownership of the property.

    “The activity permit system is not in conflict with the heads of agreement between SANParks and the city of Cape Town because on the one hand, it is a legal obligation and on the other hand, it is not an access card, ”she said.

    “SANParks will continuously work to improve the efficiency of the administration of the activity permit system.”

    Clayton also explained that the annual increases are determined annually based on the rate of inflation necessary to accommodate increasing operational activities and conservation programs.

    Cape Argus