‘I would not let children play in this park’

The Greater Table View Action Forum wants to lobby businesses to support a plan to upgrade Echium Road Park.

It’s been almost five years since a civic group announced plans to upgrade Table View’s Echium Road Park, but there’s no sign of improvements, and the park is plagued by public drinking, squatting and littering.

At a public meeting in November of 2017, the Greater Table View Action Forum (GTAF) announced plans for a skatepark, an amphitheatre, a picnic spot, cycle routes, a playground and chess tables and other improvements at the municipal park (“Facelift for Echium Park,” Tabletalk, November 29, 2017).

GTAF’s chairwoman Karen Davis gave the presentation and the project was supported by ward councillor Nicky Rheeder.

At the time, it was proposed that the budget would come from corporates and whatever Ms Rheeder could spare.

But Ms Davis told Tabletalk at the weekend that the project had hit a snag because of local government “red tape”, including “different departments having to sign off on various aspects”.

Ethan Fourie, who has lived in Echium Road for 15 years, said the park was not safe for children.

“There is usually a lot of alcohol bottles lying around, and I would not let a child play alone there or with the adults you see in the park,” he said.

On social media, residents have voiced concerns that the project to upgrade the park is a lost cause.

However, Ms Davis said the project had not been abandoned, and there would be a meeting with the councillor and residents soon to discuss the possibility of a new body, Friends of Echium Park, leasing the park from the City to establish an amphitheatre, a skate park, a traffic-learning centre, a kiddies play area and bicycle paths, among other things.

Friends of Echium Park would lobby businesses to support the project, she said.

The park was earmarked to become a community hub despite its “attraction for the criminal elements”, Ms Davis said.

“I don’t see it being better or worse than before. The one thing that did change is the fact that people cannot be removed from the shelters they have built there. That is a concern, but we will discuss various options with the City.”

Ms Rheeder had spent some of the ward allocation on improving the walkways and on some trees, she said.

“They are now awaiting the next phase from us, and that will enable us to get this project going,” Ms Davis said.

“When we first spoke to residents about this park, there was a lot of support for the park, and I am sure, as we present the latest plans, it will garner even more support.”

She added: “It’s good to see that people are still keen and interested in the project, and we will be seeing this through.”

She promised to show Tabletalk an updated plan for the park project, but she did not do so by deadline.

The City referred queries to Ms Rheeder, who said the plans were entirely created by GTAF. “My commitment was that I would assist them wherever possible with the process and that I would invest some ward allocation.”

Ms Rheeder said she had installed the park’s pathways, trees and the irrigation systems over the last two financial years, spending more than R300 000. “(These) already made a difference to the space, and I’m happy with my contributions thus far,” she said.

“I have, however, turned my focus elsewhere now as the idea was not for me to create the (park’s upgrade project). GTAF wanted it to be a community project.”

On the issue of the squatters, Ms Rheeder said ongoing court cases prevented the City from moving them. “They are here in the first place because it pays to stay here,” she said. “Our area is very lucrative to people living on the street. They get fed by individuals and organisations, and the bins hold tons of valuables.”

Echium Road resident Ethan Fourie says the park is not child-friendly.
Empty beer bottles are a common sight at Echium Road Park, according to resident Ethan Fourie.