Durban - Kloof residents and visitors to Krantzkloof Nature Reserve have questioned why the picnic sites in the reserve have become overgrown and neglected, but the state of the picnic areas might point to a far bigger problem.
Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (EKZNW) said the sites were closed because of Covid-19 protocols regarding gatherings, but added that “financial constraints” had also played a role in the state of the sites. Trails remain open for the public.
IOS reader Barbara Calderwood, who has lived on Bridle Road for more than 50 years, said: “No doubt everyone who uses Kloof Falls Road/Bridle Road has observed the disgraceful condition of the Krantzkloof Reserve. It has always been a source of pleasure and pride for nature lovers.
“Those days have gone. The picnic area is a disgrace and has not seen a mower for months. Huge tree trunks line areas of the road and alien vegetation is obvious, even in the immediate vicinity of the entrance to the reserve. Despite letters to Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife asking for assistance, nothing has improved,” said Calderwood.
The reserve remains open for the public who want to use the trails, with Calderwood adding that by 10am every day the car park is full.
“Those cars are all paying an entrance fee, where is all that money going? The place just needs a mow,” she said.
The Independent on Saturday visited the reserve at about 8am on a weekday and there were around five cars in the parking area, with another arriving. The picnic site was overgrown, with long grass in some places being higher than the picnic tables. The EKZNW officer at the gate said no picnics were allowed because of Covid regulations.
Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife spokesperson Musa Mntambo confirmed that both picnic sites were currently closed to the public.
“The reasons for their closure are not only financial constraints, but Covid-related as it would be difficult to control numbers that may demand to use them. We may revisit our decision in the near future should the circumstances change.
“Currently only hikers are allowed and we only allow 50 vehicles. Once this number is reached we close the gate,” said Mntambo.
He said EKZNW staff had observed that people would park their cars on the street waiting for one of the 50 cars to leave the reserve so they could get in.
“We appeal to the public to stop doing this as it creates congestion on the road,” said Mntambo, saying it had led to the nature reserve being closed completely for a few days before re-opening.
He added Kenneth Stainbank Nature Reserve picnic sites remained open to the public and “does not have limits on numbers allowed”, but that the closing time is 3pm, by which time all picnickers must have left the site.
Kloof Conservancy chairman Paolo Candotti said the issue extended beyond the picnic sites.
He said that Kloof Conservancy had supported the Krantzkloof Nature Reserve over many years.
“But this has changed as a result of the reserve management’s response to the financial crisis facing Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. Our view is that the response has been inappropriate and has antagonised many in our community who supported the reserve over many years ‒ this has resulted in significant help from the conservancy coming to an end.
“The state of the picnic sites is really the least of our concerns, they cannot in any event be used under the current Covid regulations, but maybe they are just a reflection of the management attitude,” said Candotti.
An email sent to Kloof Conservancy members in April confirmed the organisation would no longer organise the popular 3 Falls Trail Run.
“This has come about as a result of policy differences between the Kloof Conservancy and the Reserve Management. There are a number of issues which cover both biodiversity protection and community access to the reserve which we have raised with reserve management, but our concerns have fallen on deaf ears,” said the email, adding members were "deeply concerned about the manner in which access to the reserve has been severely restricted without any consultation whatsoever“.
“More recently conditions of paths and entrances have become concerns, but have not been discussed with management as there is no line of communication and our inputs are no longer welcome.”
It added that over the years, the surrounding communities had been proactive in raising funds and supporting the reserve. These were originally used for alien invasive plant clearing, but more recently funds were used to improve trails, entrances, parking, signage, information displays, map development and a significant upgrade of the Krantzkloof Conference Centre. According to the conservancy, more than R250 000 a year was raised over eight years and put back into the reserve
The email also highlighted a recent petition set up by a private individual, which received some 2000 signatures and was submitted to EKZNW, but with no response.
The email highlighted a number of solutions to the issues, but with a breakdown in communication with EKZNW, it said: “Under these circumstances it is very difficult to find a way forward. We do not see any light at the end of the dark tunnel while the current management is in place.”
The Independent on Saturday