This was not an easy promise to make for a Park lying entirely within the municipal boundaries of a major metropolitan city and covering some 23,000 hectares in size. Add to that the fact that Table Mountain National Park is an open access park, which means that access to the Park is free and open from anywhere along 75 percent of its boundaries. This also means that the very different needs and expectations of the various communities bordering the Park (some very wealthy and others bitterly poor) have to be accommodated. Daunting as fulfilling that promised may have seemed, South African National Parks considers itself privileged to be allowed to manage the Mother City’s most iconic feature.
The ‘For All’ part of the vision embraces the access to recreational use of, and economic benefits delivered by the Park. A number of programmes have been put in place to realise access, including an affordable multiple entry card for locals, subsidised entries for learners from previously disadvantaged communities and the establishment of the very popular People’s Trail. There are also a series of robust year-round educational campaigns, where kids are picked up from their schools and taken into the Park, allowing them a first-hand experience and understanding of the
environment. The management team at Table Mountain National Parks understands that the vision of A Park for All, Forever can only be fully realised when everyone in Cape Town knows and cares about its existence, and can confirm those positive feelings while visiting it.
When the Park was established in 1998, the primary threat to its ecological well-being was the scourge of invasive alien vegetation. By procuring labour from surrounding communities since then, Table Mountain National Park has allowed for hundreds of people to derive a household income by working on alien clearing. Through the government’s Expanded Public Works Programme – a national poverty alleviation scheme – more than 1000 people from impoverished communities have been employed on Park projects such as upgrading footpaths and erecting directional signage. A number of individuals have also been trained to be tourist guides and visitor safety offices.
The ‘Forever’ part of the vision takes into account the Park’s financial strategy of ensuring sustainability primarily through ecotourism, underpinned by the guiding principle that these economic activities should not impact negatively on the core conservation mission of the Park. One of the primary underlying factors to Table Mountain National Park’s success at keeping maintaining the vision is the Conservation Development Framework (CDF.) Simply put, the CDF is a spatial framework to guide conservation, development and recreational activities and initiatives in and
surrounding the Park. Via a series of recreational use zones and visitor site management guidelines, it informs where visitor facilities should be located; highlights priority conservation areas and determines which recreational activities can take place where. By adhering to this Framework, Table Mountain National Park ensures that the approximately 4 million annual visitors to the Park will have a remarkable experience; communities surrounding the Park will benefit from their visit and that the unique biodiversity offering is nurtured and conserved for future generations to enjoy.
Table Mountain National Park Manager Paddy Gordon assures me that the upholding of the A Park for All, Forever vision and promise has only been and will always only possible through employing a stringent people-centred biodiversity, cultural heritage and responsible tourism management
Regional Marketing Manager: Cape Region
South African National Parks