During the open session the St Francis Bay Resident Association social gathering on Thursday evening, Christopher Gray, a recently retired construction company owner from Port Elizabeth raised the matter of the roads in St Francis Bay. With a Civil Engineering and construction background, Gray explained just how serious the state of the roads really was. Explaining that the roads were built using ‘chip and spray’ with no consideration of gradients or water reticulation, it was little wonder the roads are in the condition they are. He continued that if residents had to wait for a dysfunctional council to fix the roads the roads would deteriorate to a point where they could not be fixed. He stated that the residents would have to contribute to have a proper slurry put down and effective water drainage put in place for if this was not done, “we won’t have any roads in three to five years”
Nigel Aitken, the association Chairman, responded that where the SFBRA had been successful in getting the municipality to slurry the roads, for example in front of Coopers and in Lyme road and it was amazing how these roads had improved. Aitken made the point that even if there was a shift in the council make-up at next year’s elections, “we could not expect council to wave a magic wand” for it would take time for the municipality’s financial situation to recover from the mess it was currently in.
Agreeing with Gray, Aitken said it would be up to the residents to contribute if the roads were to be properly repaired. Citing the recent efforts to raise funds for the beach, it was unfortunate that many upcountry owners of properties were not supportive of the beach project and were unlikely to assist with the roads so it would be the residents who would have to “dig into” their pockets to save the roads. The efforts of the SFBRA had raised well over their target of R400K and the beach fund and the fund was presently close to R550K. This was thanks in main to the citizen’s of St Francis Bay most of whom do not own beachfront properties.
Cllr Rheeder then raised the matter that even if there was a shift in the political makeup of council after the 2016 elections, the funds for repairing roads would not be available for the budget would have already been approved by the sitting council before the elections. Thus if residents wanted to see an improvement in the condition of the roads they would have to contribute themselves.
On the subject of the beach reparation the question was raised as to the necessity of all the funding for the beach when there was a lot more to St Francis than the beach. Several attractions were mentioned, the golf courses, the river, the fynbos nature reserves, that St Francis has four biomes, wonderful hikes, the Cape St Francis Lighthouse, amongst others. Aitken agreed there certainly were many attractions in the area but without the beach, St Francis Bay would be unlikely to attract the holidaymakers that flock to the area over the summer holidays and are the lifeblood to many of the businesses.
As important as the saving the beaches is, Aitken confirmed that the beach reparation fund also included the spit separating the sea from the canal network. Explaining that should the spit be breached, it would spell the end of the canals which make up a large of St Francis Bay.
Closing the informal meeting, Aitken thanked the residents for the good turnout and again called for people to serve on the committee stating that Christopher Gray would be a welcomed new face. He also thanked the St Francis Bay Golf Club for their hospitality and the fine spread they served.
Note regarding the biomes. The St Francis area stretches across seven biomes. not four as raised in the meeting. These biomes are Forest, Thicket, Fynbos, Grass, Savannah, Nama Karoo and Succulent Karoo.