Cell Phone Mast furore

A furore has finally erupted with regard a number of applications to have 4G (cell phone) masts erected at several places both in St Francis Bay and further south at Cape St Francis. As we watched them dig up our road verges burying metre after metre of fibre-optic cable, those amongst us who are more technically inclined would have known this was not being done to improve our Telkom telephone service for in fact the installation had nothing to do with Telkom to start  with.

Without getting into the pro’s or cons of having a 30metre + high mast planted next door it would be suffice to say it was never going to happen without a huge outcry. Rather than having every ‘expert’ voice their pounds worth some of our village leaders met on Wednesday to discuss the matter. Chaired by Councillor Ben Rheeder to the group have formed a body that includes the municipal representatives to look at a way forward and ensure whatever finally transpires will be the best solution appeasing the needs of those who require good voice and data services and those with health /  aesthetic concerns.

St Francis Property Owners chairman Wayne Furphy had this to say on the matter.

Wayne Furphy Chairman St Francis Property Woners Ass

Wayne Furphy Chairman St Francis Property Owners Ass

“We met with the Municipality yesterday at our request to understand what is happening with these tower applications. We recognise that the town requires good cell phone coverage but we need oversight on the location of these towers. We are putting a plan and a small team together to address these issues and are looking for anyone who has experience with telecom tower infrastructure to assist us.

These are 4G towers, but we need to get into a proactive position (as opposed to reactive) and prepare for the rollout of 5G towers which are inevitable. We have asked the Municipality to put a hold on the 4G tower installation for a few months to allow us to work with them to identify the best sites for towers, ie. least invasive, provide the necessary coverage, sharing of masts, type of mast, etc. The  Municipal officials attending our meeting do gave a good understanding of the issues, and will take our request back to the Municipality for consideration.”

There is little doubt that communication services in the region need to be improved. One network will work well in one area but will be unable to establish a stable connection around the corner. We are being held to ransom by the established networks and forced to sign 24 month contracts at outrages rates for data. Data rates are falling as already there are several new networks (RAIN is one) offering uncapped 4G from R250 a month on a month to month basis but coverage limited to a few areas in St Francis Bay and no coverage in Cape St Francis.

Government is threatening to pass legislation that will allow them to plant masts, and no doubt other equipment, wherever they want so best we are ahead of the system and as Furphy so succinctly puts is be ‘proactive not reactive’.

St Francis all a-buzz at last

What a wonderful site to see St Francis Bay and Cape St Francis bustling with visitors again. The lifting of travel and accommodation restrictions certainly brought visitors flocking back to their favourite get-away spot.

Cape St Francis Resort which has been somewhat of a ghost village since lockdown was again teeming with kids on bikes and electric scooters. The smell of braai permeated the air and across the road Full Stop Café, abiding by all the social distancing and mask protocols, once again enjoyed the support of both locals and visitors who flock to what has become an iconic part of Cape St Francis.

And town was no different with queues at SPA, not quite at long as they are over the season but certainly a lot longer than they have been for the four months. With the closing of Pedal & Spoke Rambling Rose had it all to themselves  and just to find parking nearby was a challenge.

Those who haven’t been to St Francis Bay since lockdown must have been pleasantly surprised with our ‘NEW Roads’ for wow they truly have uplifted the profile of the village. I had occasion to travel almost the length of the redone St Francis. The trip from Seaglades on the canals to the Tarragona intersection was reminiscent of travelling on the roads of the old South Africa. Nary a pothole to shake you awake, just the sound of rubber sailing gently over tar almost enticing one to do a return trip just for the glorious experience not enjoyed for many a year.

But one small complaint is the turn into the old village shopping centre from Lyme Road South needs attention. He contractors made no effort to interface the new strip into the old and the potholes that developed since the rain are almost a challenge to a 4×4 if not for a smaller hatchback sedan.

Whilst the peace and quiet of lockdown has been a somewhat wonderful if different experience, it really is nice to see people interacting and enjoying being out and about again especially as the weather really came to the party with Saturday and Sunday being almost as good as any day in mid-summer. 

Saturday Street Food at Full Stop Cape St Francis

Street Food at Full Stop in Cape St Francis has become a popular Saturday stop so be sure to pop by this Saturday (weather permitting and grab a boerie roll, tuna burger or what other braai choice than have on offer.

St Francis Property Owners Chairman on developments in St Francis

With the Covid-19 lockdown many property owners, regular and not so regular holiday makers and international visitors will not have seen all the improvements that have quietly been taking place in St Francis in spite of the lockdown. For those who have not visited our beautiful hamlet since the Special Rates Area was unanimously adopted at the meeting held just before Christmas 2018 (photo below appropriately dated) the changes will astound you.

Of course there will be those who continue to berate all that the SFPO is doing and are continuing in their attempts to stop the SRA going ahead but even they surely will admit the improvements are visible and necessary if St Francis Bay is to remain a sought after holiday destination as well as a beautiful village to live in. 

In the video below St Francis Property Owners Chairman Wayne Furphy gives a brief overview of developments to date (August 2020) with regard to improvements to St Francis in terms of the Saving St Francis initiative.

Over the coming days we will be running a series of videos where Wayne will be updating readers on various aspects of the progress made in “Saving St Francis”.

 

 

Four Nature Reserves each offering a different experience

Not all who reside in the area and certainly most holiday makers, are aware that there are 4 separate nature reserves in Cape St Francis, all offering nature trails and different experiences.

The smallest being Seal Bay Nature reserve, about which I will elaborate today. The others being the Cape St Francis Nature reserve between Santereme and Cape St Francis which include several cycle tracks. The Seal Point Nature Reserve, around the Lighthouse area,  has a separate cycle track which is maintained by the St Francis Cycling Club and lastly, the largest and most varied, the Irma Booysen Nature reserve which again includes a cycling route.

The Seal Bay Nature Reserve which lies to the right of the lower end of Da Gama road is a small reserve and is populated by tall and hedge-like thicket which provides excellent protection from the wind for those wishing to take a walk in a pristine environment on those well-known local windy days. Due to its size, terrain, and sensitive vegetation there are no cycle tracks in this reserve.

There are many trees such the quar, milkwood, knob thorn to mention a few, that are common in the Seal Bay Reserve but rare in other reserves. Many of these are labelled with tags, so it is a great place to learn about these trees. It is therefore also an ideal place to see shy forest and thicket birds for the birders and people interested in the local bird life.

In the centre of the reserve, there is a lookout point with beautiful views of Seal Bay and the whole of the Cape St Francis beach, from Shark to Seal point. This part of the beach is also fairly remote, so the good access onto the beach that the paths provide, means that visitors can often have this stretch of beach to themselves, especially in the off season.

All the reserves are managed by FOSTER (Friends of St Francis Nature Areas) in accordance with an MOU with the Kouga Municipality. Through membership fees and monies raised, FOSTER looks after and maintains the walking paths and trails and removes alien vegetation. In partnership with the Municipality and Working on Fire, the fire breaks are set to be maintained over the next few weeks, helping to fireproof Cape St Francis.

The website http://foster.org.za/gallery/wppaspec/oc1/cv0/ab2 offers those interested in the vegetation, birds and wildlife an extensive list with photographs of the fauna and flora to be found in the reserves. It also provides maps of the walks and membership details.

CLICK TO SEE ALL NATURE RESERVE MAPS

Map of nature reserves in St Francis region

CLICK TO SEE ALL NATURE RESErVE MAPS

 

Working on Fire to help fireproof Cape St Francis

Working on Fires St FrancisWorking on Fire (WOF), which started in 2003, is an Expanded Public Works Programme aimed at providing work opportunities to young men and women. The Programme resides under, and is funded by, the Department of Environmental Affairs. Participants are recruited from marginalised communities and trained in fire awareness and education, fire prevention and fire suppression skills, including bush clearing.

The difference with other “working on programmers“ is that WOF employs more than 5000 young men and women permanently who have been fully trained as wildfire firefighters and are stationed in more than 200 bases throughout South Africa. WOF addresses the prevention and control of wildland fires to enhance the sustainability and protection of life, properties and the environment through the implementation of Integrated Fire Management solutions.

They are no strangers to the area having previously been deployed to the area to assist and to fight fires.

Starting in the week of 3 August, a team from Working on Fire will be clearing existing firebreaks in the Irma Booysen and Cape St Francis Reserves in order to prepare Cape St Francis for the summer fire season. Work will begin near the tennis courts and then proceed towards the Birkenhead and Diaz entrances of the Irma Booysen reserve. The work is being organized in partnership between the KOUGA Municipality and FOSTER.

It is well known that uncontrolled fires have caused extensive damage to properties in this area over the past few years. Maintains existing Fire breaks and the clearing of bush and aliens is an essential part of preventing fires from damaging properties and infrastructure should they occur.

FOSTER - friends of St Francis nature areas

“Safe and secure” pathway project helps reduce crime in St Francis Bay

A R1.7-million pedestrian pathway project in the coastal resort town of St Francis Bay has proved a hit with the community, reducing incidents of crime on residents walking to and from work while upskilling previously unemployed youths and women from the area

Before the new pathway linking the community of Sea Vista with the St Francis Bay CBD was built, the preferred pedestrian route into St Francis Bay was an often dangerous, bare earth track through the industrial area, which became muddy when it rained.

Sea Vista Pathway

SAFE PASSAGE: St Francis Bay pizza chef, Siyamthanda Adams, says a new R1.7m pathway linking St Francis and the Sea Vista community has changed the lives of Sea Vista residents. The new pathway, decorated with mosaic art from the local community, also boasts CCTV and lighting, keeping pedestrians safe as they walk to and from work. (Image supplied)

The need for the 800m engineered pathway – which also features CCTV, lighting, landscaping, and mosaic art – was identified by the Kouga Wind Farm Community Development Trust, an Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) funded initiative, for the benefit of local communities who were consulted and included throughout the project. The trust has a 26% stake in the Kouga Wind Farm and uses its share of the project’s profits to fund socio-economic and small business development projects, such as the pathway.

Local pizza chef Siyamthanda Adams, who lives in Sea Vista, said she used the path to walk to and from work – often returning late at night after her shift at Pizza @ 167 in St Francis Bay ended.

“The challenges which Sea Vista residents faced before the new path was built included being mugged and attacked en route to and from town, because the informal path was dark and surrounded by trees. It was really not safe,” she said.

“But ever since the new pathway has been developed, it has been much safer. There is even seating along the path where pedestrians can sit and rest when they come from the village. The beautiful mosaics are another luxury on their own.

Sea Vista Patway Mosaics

GROUP EFFORT: Community members created mosaic art for the walkway based on the winning designs submitted by local children. Pictured are (from left) Zizipho Spani, Nosisa Sihlwayi, Nombuyiselo Zono and Nobantu Khabalaza (Image supplied)

“It’s now a pleasure to go to the village and we are not scared anymore. The Kouga Wind Farm Trust has done a great job indeed and we will be forever grateful.”

Sea Vista Pathway

: Inspecting the completed R1.7m pedestrian pathway linking the community of Sea Vista with the St Francis Bay CBD are (from left) site agent for Summertree Civils, Patrick Thandani, Kouga Wind Farm’s Economic Development Manager, Trevor Arosi, and project manager representing the St Francis Bay Property Owners Association, Nigel Aitken. (Image supplied)

Project manager Nigel Aitken said the need for a pathway was identified at a police sector meeting where problems with the informal pathway were highlighted.

“It was dangerous, not only because people were being mugged, but also because the path gets muddy when it rains and people slip,” he said.

“The community was involved every step of the way, including adding their own final touches to the artwork and landscaping that decorates the pathway.”

Kouga Wind Farm Trust trustee Maijang Mpherwane, who represents the IDC – a part funder of the Kouga Wind Farm – said: “We aim to use projects like this to provide a base upon which government and other corporates can build on, to address the various needs that exist within the communities we serve.”

As part of the project’s aim to harness local talent, civil engineering student Lesedi Marota was appointed as trainee project manager.

“It was a great foundation for my technical experience, and I can apply the experience I gained in the future,” he said. “Furthermore, eight members of the Sea Vista community who were employed for the duration of the project acquired a number of new technical skills that they can now draw on going forward.”

Aside from making the daily commute safer for residents, the initiative also helped to upskill local women as part of a community art project. The women were taught how to create mosaic art based on the winning designs submitted by local children. More than 200 entries were received from children of all ages – from tiny tots to high school learners.

The selected artworks were converted into long-lasting mosaic tile designs, placed along the pathway for all – including the young artists – to see and enjoy.

Marota said: “It is beautiful to look at but the main objective of the project was safety, as there had been a number of attacks in the area. This objective has definitely been achieved.”

MEDIA RELEASE – Good News Lab on behalf of Kouga Wind Farm Trust