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FRIENDS OF DE WAAL PARK
CHAIRMAN’S REPORT 2013/2014
This is our sixth AGM and I believe that the Friends has moved into a stable, mature phase. Not that there are still not many things that need to be done in the park. It is just that the initial issues around organisation and procedure seem to have settled very well. As suggested at last year's AGM portfolios were created and committee members have undertaken their responsibilities, not only diligently, but with commitment and enthusiasm. I would like to begin this report by thanking them for all that they have done.
Although our finances are healthy we are faced with regular expenditure and so fundraising took up a lot of time this year. This portfolio was driven by the committee as a whole after Colleen and David left the committee. At this point I would like to thank them for their input and their continued support.
There was the calendar of course. We received many suggestions regarding format and content, and we listened carefully. What changes were possible we made and I think that this year's was one of the best. The profit wasn't quite as good because we paid for a designer for the first time and other costs crept in. My thanks to Sally Chapman for the wonderful photos as well as Anna Maria Valentini, Lisa Malcomess, Johann Theron and Alain Proust, to Tracey Bowley for the design and to Peta for coordinating the project. Winnie assisted with the selling and many others added to the success of the exercise.
We also felt that t-shirts would have a double purpose - as a source of income and as an advertisement for the Friends. So a great deal of time was spent looking at designs, colours, sizes and suppliers. They haven't sold as well as I expected them to but many people have commented on them favourably and recognised the Friends as the drivers of change in the park. My thanks again to the committee, all of whom got involved in this exercise, but most of all to Peta who took us through the various designs and Megan who did so much spade work with suppliers.
The book sale was a fun event even if we did miss David's drive and energy. We already had so many books left over from the last sale that we didn't need to go out looking for new stock but there was new stock and we made new friends. We also had cakes and coffee and the committee threw themselves into the exercise with verve and vigour. I remember it as a very happy day.
At the sale we drew the winners of two raffles: for Monica's beautiful planter inspired by the trees in the park and the other, another of Margaret's beautiful quilts, this time with the theme being the park. I am delighted to tell you that both raffles were won by people who dearly wanted to win the prizes. Thank you, Monica and Margaret, for making the planter and the quilt and for running with those extra fundraising projects.
At about the same time there was a big problem with the fountain pond. Water was clearly leaking out from underneath and the pressure was very low. Well, eventually the problem was traced to the pipe running through the fountain, and after much debate and lifting and moving the fountain from its pedestal, the leak was traced and repaired. Thanks to RE/MAX Living for coming to our aid with the costs. And to Charles Lindsay Bowman who was completely involved in the exercise - and without whom the problem would never have been resolved.
Speaking of Charles I must deviate for a moment and congratulate him on the success of the Concerts in the Park series. Every concert was a great success but perhaps none more so than the Freshly Ground concert. Not without its headaches, the people who were there loved the concert and loved our park. I received many compliments on the park that day. And as a result of the donations made by people who attended the concerts we have two speed bumps to slow the lunatics down on the service road. Well done, Gaffer, and thank you!
Carols by Candlelight took place in the teeth of a strong Southeaster and I must say that Capt Thwala of the Salvation Army tried very hard to be heard above the wind. It is not always a good thing to hear the singing at these carol evenings but those who are there love them and we sing with gusto. We managed to add a little to the collection taken that evening and so were able to present the Salvation Army with R2 500 towards their good causes.
Security in the park has been an on-going issue. I met with Mark Truss and Mike Reeler of the OK CID who gave me very useful pointers. I have had meetings with Pauline McConney of Parks Department (to whom I passed on some of their suggestions) and there have been several, not to say many, raids or visits from the various Neighbourhood Watches, the security companies and the SAPS. Whether the problem has been controlled is debatable but I think it is important to separate the problems of the homeless from the problems of crime.
The park will always attract homeless people and there are some who are so quiet and unassuming that the average visitor probably is unaware of them. Others are a real concern, especially when they use the park as a unisex latrine and an oversized garbage bin. For this reason we have paid Jennifer to keep the toilets open long after the Council's attendant has left for the day. Jennifer tries very hard to keep the place clean, even on one occasion buying cleaning stuff and toilet paper out of her own money. However the toilets are pretty rudimentary and it is not easy keeping them hygienic and working when the facilities were never robust.
Crime is another issue altogether. Yes, some of the homeless may be criminals too but I do not believe that is usually the case. The nutters, and the thugs, the drug-users and thieves generally seem to be outsiders coming into the area as I believe OH Watch has confirmed. Some of the thefts have been purely random: an unlocked car, an abandoned backpack. But I suppose that is how they operate.
Drugs on the other hand are much more difficult to deal with. I have spoken to various people about this and one comment made was that the toilet block is an ideal place for dealing since it is almost impossible for the Law to reach it without their being seen a way off. The authorities are aware of the problem and are trying to find a solution. The advice given me is that we should not try to be heroes and approach offending parties but rather call the authorities to deal with them.
In my opinion the park is surprisingly clean. Litter and dog poo is an on-going battle but those of us with long memories, will remember how it used to look like a rubbish tip most of the time. Now we just battle with the tip-scenario after weekends of glorious sunshine. The litter left behind is often of a very high quality so perhaps we shouldn't blame the vagrants and the dogs for digging in the bins or ripping open the black bags. I just wish that these posh people would take their litter home with them.
Straatwerk does a sterling job cleaning the fountain and gutters and picking up after our messy visitors. My thanks to Wendy and Monica for looking after the Straatwerk team led by the wonderful Peter. They came to work on Good Friday to my surprise and when I reminded Peter that it was a public holiday, he announced that Jesus never takes time off!
We also have to thank Phillip and Clayton for the numerous jobs they do for us from cleaning the bins to planting the flower beds, from assisting at events to thinking of ways to improve the park both spontaneously and at minimal cost.
Turning now to the poo problem. It seems to me to be getting worse but that may be because there are more dogs in the park and the number of owners who don't pick up after their animals increases proportionately.
The committee constantly looks at this problem and we come up with ideas of how it can be tackled. More bins, more signs, more bags. Name and shame. Fling poo at them. Speak nicely. Shout at them. For me, I just heave a sigh of relief that I don't have to consort with people who don't pick up after their animals. Can you imagine what their personal hygiene must be like?
The cost of the poo bags is a big item in the budget but Theodore Yach and family made a big donation to cover this. My huge thanks to them. May they never tread in poo.
Two people must get special mention here: Tilly and Sharon who ensure that the poo bag dispensers are stocked up every day. They truly are unsung heroes and I want to recognise them now to change that. Without their devotion to duty the park would be pretty disgusting. So thank you ladies for what you do. It is not unnoticed or unappreciated.
Peta has done wonderful things with the website. Or at least I think so. Hannarie has provided information on the trees and Sandy has given some sound advice on good dog behaviour. My thanks to all of them for their contributions. And especially to Peta for remaining so positive and innovative. And a very big thank you to RE/MAX Living for sponsoring the costs of the website.
The mention of the trees leads me to Tielman Haumann who has done the most remarkable job in identifying the different species of trees in the park, naming them and then conducting fascinating tours of the park in the summer months. Hannarie has backed him up with her short pieces about trees on the website. It was a labour of love but has added immeasurably to the park. And whilst we are on trees I want to thank Mel Hagen for the beautiful Lovell Friedman bench which she donated in memory of her husband and her son.
Perhaps this is the time to mention the passing of Jannie Haasnoot. Jannie was one of the ladies who tackled the problem of the dirty pond – out of which the whole idea of the Friends grew. She and Monica collected money and then supervised the cleaning and maintenance of the pond. Jannie was ill for some time and then passed away in November last year. She was a life member of the Friends (as is Monica) and featured on a few of our calendars. She is greatly missed.
Back to the committee:
The committee has been augmented since the last AGM by the addition of Megan Davies who has added immeasurably with her balanced and sound business approach to everything. And recently we persuaded Oliver Barnet to join us. He has already attended his first committee meetings and has not resigned so we do not appear to have frightened him off.
Susan Watts remains a wonderful calming influence and an extraordinary resource if ever there is any dispute. Wendy, as I have said, looks after Straatwerk for us, Peta tackles the website, the newsletter, design and input. Renate is our treasurer and keeps the books up to date which is no mean feat when you see the number of transactions that go through our books. She also patiently allows me to boss her about. Thank you, Renate.
Then of course there is our secretary Jennifer. Jen is just amazing. She is the hub of the committee, attending to all the various communications necessary, keeping track of our members and feeding us with information about the members and their dogs. She really does care about us and is able to offer comfort in times or sadness, and enthusiasm for the happy events. Thank you, Jen.
De Waal Park is an extraordinary place. It is much more than just a city park. I think people feel they are able to relax and be themselves in the park. We share the most amazing details about our lives with other walkers. We share a love of the dogs. We avoid the skateboarders and the slack liners and the shrieking children when we can. But we love the park and have its well-being at heart. I hope you feel that way too. From the words of encouragement, the donations and the support that we get I am sure that you do.
So finally I want to thank Pauline McConney and her team at the City's Park Department who have done what they can for our park on their limited budget. This year we have gained many trees, extensive irrigation and one and a half new pathways in addition to the basic essentials needed to keep the park cleaned, open and safe. Our huge thanks to our generous sponsors like RE/MAX Living, Minuteman Press, the Yach Family, the calendar sponsors and many more. They make so many things possible. And to you, the members, thank you for the support, the encouragement and the co-operation which is needed to make De Waal Park such an incredible place.
I won't go on for too much longer but I would like to read you something that I have found. It was written about 50 years ago by Dr J Luckhoff who fought so valiantly to save the park when it was threatened with destruction for bowling-greens.
On a lovely morning some weeks ago I saw an old man sitting in De Waal Park. The sunlight was filtering through the tall pines, its silvery light falling between their grey columns to cast patterns of warm colour on the ground. He was facing the grove of pine trees, sitting erect and motionless on a seat under a gnarled Cypress tree. It seemed as if the spirit of the place found completion in the presence of this frail old man, for he sought comfort and protection here.
This scene viewed against the sombre black stem of the Cypress would inspire the discerning spirit of a Rembrandt.
There was dignity in his posture and his face revealed the story of past ideals and endeavours, of strivings and sorrows. He had about him a certain wistfulness, sustained by a gentle spirit of resignation. Here was the place where he found repose and healing.
I spoke to him. He told me that he was 84 years old and frequently came to the park.
“Here I feel safe. Cape Town is no longer safe for the old. Here I can rest in peace and quiet” he said. “This is a very beautiful place”, he paused and then pensively added,” it is very beautiful here”.
The words were spoken in simplicity and with reverent acceptance and gratitude.
Dr Luckhoff goes on to explain that the Park was under threat of development and the old man is deeply distressed. Thank goodness there were people like Dr Luckhoff - over a thousand of them – who protested, and we still have De Waal Park today.
Mike Bosazza 28 May 2014
In the middle of the City Bowl, beneath the majestic Table Mountain, lies an oasis of greenery. Every day this beautiful space acts as a meeting ground for dogs and their walkers, children, picnickers, slack rope walkers, tree and bird enthusiasts, runners and everyone in between.
There is no spot in Cape Town more sacred and loved by those who visit it. We take it upon ourselves to keep our community park clean, safe and functional. Join us in our mission to keep De Waal Park running smoothly, by becoming a member of the Friends of De Waal Park.