Exciting plans for Van der Kemp's Kloof

Posted On Friday, 16 November 2007 02:00 Published by
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A consultant has been appointed to assess the feasibility of a backpackers‘ lodge in Van der Kemp‘s Kloof

By Guy Rogers

A consultant has been appointed to assess the feasibility of a backpackers‘ lodge in Van der Kemp‘s Kloof, in the first step towards rejuvenating the Bethelsdorp hospitality sector that was gutted in anti-apartheid protests 17 years ago.

The plan for the lodge is part of a multi-pronged strategy to promote sustainable development in and around the kloof, a rich corridor of diverse plant life cutting through the centre of Bethelsdorp, the oldest part of Port Elizabeth.

The strategy is being driven by the Bethelsdorp Development Trust and funded through a grant by the Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA) and the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality. Besides the backpackers‘ lodge, it includes the expansion of the kloof into a vast new conservancy as well as development of a range of adventure sports and a “rustic lodge”.

Trustee Robert Gallagher said yesterday that DBSA had been supporting the project since 2005 and had so far injected “in excess of R1-million”.

With this support, the trust has identified eight “bankable opportunities” ranging across six different sectors from environment and conservation to local development and housing and a number of feasibility assessments have been commissioned.

“For the environmental sector, following a request for proposals we have just appointed Richmond Hill urban design and architectural firm The Matrix to assess one of these opportunities, which is a backpackers‘ lodge.”

Gallagher said the trust‘s only premise at this stage was that the lodge should capitalise on the 7km-long kloof‘s rich environmental and cultural heritage and its potential to serve as public open space for 350 000 residents in the adjacent wards 38, 41 and 42.

“In 1990 the hospitality industry was burnt down during protests. Since then, taverns and shebeens have proliferated, promoting gangsterism and undermining our society.

“We want the new developments to result in the resurrection of the Bethelsdorp hospitality industry and to re-empower the community.”

The backpackers‘ lodge should also tie in with the envisaged range of adventure sports that are going to be developed especially to attract foreign tourists, he said. They include foefie-sliding, kayaking on the Little Swartkops River and mountain-biking on the existing 98km trail.

Environmental consultancy SRK and The Matrix have already been awarded the tender to expand Van der Kemp‘s Kloof from its present 560ha to 4 000ha. The metro has donated R700 000 to supplement the DBSA funds to plan for this project. The aim is to link up with land owned by the Anglican Church to create an extended nature reserve reaching south through communities like Helenvale, Booysen Park, Greenbushes, Malabar and Llewellyn Park “right up to Cape Road”, Gallagher said.

Although Van der Kemp‘s Kloof is a declared municipal nature reserve, it has never been proclaimed by the provincial government. As part of the planned sustainable development of the area, the trust has petitioned the environmental authorities to try to have this done.

Gallagher said another consultancy, MGM, has presented a draft comprehensive management plan which should result in strict environmental controls being imposed in the kloof.

The Herald

Publisher: I-Net Bridge
Source: I-Net Bridge

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