FOSTER Chairman responds to complaints over Wildside barriers

FOSTER - friends of St Francis nature areas
FOSTER has been responsible for proclaiming and managing the reserve network in the St Francis region since the 1980s.

It does this with the full support of the Kouga Municipality which owns the land and, to this effect, has a Memorandum of Understanding with the Municipality.

Recent Facebook posts have raised concerns about aspects of FOSTER’s management policies and actions. Our responses appear below.

Concerns have been raised about the blocking access by cyclists to the wildside path. The following points are relevant:

This path has been a pedestrian path since the 1960s; only in the last decade – and increasingly in the last few years – has it been used by cyclists.

The path is narrow, windy and traverses wetlands; cycling endangers pedestrians as well as the environment.

FOSTER has adopted the cycle-access policy of South African National Parks, the premiere conservation organization in the country. This policy stipulates the separation of cyclists and pedestrians by restricting cyclists to old vehicle tracks that are wide enough to enable the safe passage of pedestrians, and have a surface resilient to the impacts of bicycles.

Thus, consistent with this policy, FOSTER has identified a network of routes through the reserves that are accessible to cyclists and identified those where cycling is not permitted (see map showing cycle routes). FOSTER has garnered the support of the St Francis Cycling Club for this policy, and continues to consult with them on expanding cycle routes in the reserve system.

According to this policy, the wildside trail is identified as a pedestrians-only route. Signage placed to indicate this has been vandalised on several occasions and cyclists have persisted using the trail.

Therefore, FOSTER implemented a series of barriers to prevent cycle access.

Others have raised concerns about dogs in the reserves.
FOSTER has adopted a policy of permitting dogs in the reserve and encourages owners to control them via leashes.

We have been monitoring wildlife via camera traps since 2013, in order to understand relationships between human and dog traffic on the one hand, and wildlife abundance on the other.

Results of this monitoring have shown that while wildlife sightings have declined with the increase in traffic over time, overall wildlife abundance has not; the animals are using alternative routes to those that are heavily used by humans and their dogs.

We therefore have evidence to show no dog-wildlife impacts at this stage. However, if our ongoing monitoring shows this not be the case, we will, in full consultation with the public, adapt our policy accordingly.

FOSTER thanks the public for their support and appreciates feedback, positive or negative. This will help us to adjust our policies so that we can continue to provide a service for visitors while protecting nature.

FOSTER chairperson, Professor Richard Cowling:

Cycling paths in Cape St Francis

Reader unhappy with blockades on the Wildside

There has been a fair amount of discussion on social regarding the barriers that FOSTER has erected along the walkways on the Wildside. here is one readers view.

I am shocked and most disappointed with the barriers which FOSTER constructed in the pathway on the Wild Side in Cape St Francis. My reasons are as follows:

The St Francis Area is amongst other things advertised as a tourist destination and one of the attractions is “ A Walk On The Wild Side”.  As a result of these barriers a walk on the wild side has now become an obstacle course with distracting human intrusion in nature.  Also, one cannot walk there without risking injury.

These barriers create an unwelcoming atmosphere and are an insult to residents as well as tourists. Cyclists are treated as naughty children and in the process the hikers and runners are punished as well.  Surely the average person enjoying his/her outdoor exercise in this beautiful area, is able to read and understand the signs used for indicating different types of routes.

Extreme measures such as these are totally unwarranted and could even have a negative effect on tourism to Cape St Francis and possible new buyers of property.  It creates an unfriendly impression and testifies a relentless attitude towards cyclists and hikers to such an extent that everyone using these pathways is adversely affected. Surely this will affect property prices negatively.

May I ask: What is behind this?  Will the other nature reserves such as the Irma Booysen Reserve where different pathways are designated for cyclists and hikers be treated in a similar way in future?

My request is that the barriers are removed completely.

Until then of course my contribution to FOSTER stops here.”

Concerned resident