Park open to ride

Teams of contractors, SANParks staff and TokaiMTB volunteers embarked on an extensive rehabilitation process.

Mountain bike users are excited about the reopening of the upper Tokai Park to mountain bike (MTB) users – three weeks earlier than promised according to Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) area manager south, Gavin Bell.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place at 7am on Saturday December 10 marking the way for wheels to spin as mountain bikers puff uphill on beloved terrain. And not only in Tokai Park. Constantia resident Andrew Pollock somehow got wind of the cycle routes and contacted the Bulletin, complimenting the new TMNP manager Lesley-Ann Meyer for doing what no one else could – get MTB access to the Jeep track linking Constantia to the City Bowl.

Deon de Villiers, chairman of the Table Mountain Mountain Bike (TMMTB) Forum confirmed this. He said the track “hover” starts at Signal Hill and makes its way through Deer Park, Rhodes Memorial, below Newlands picnic site and then past the firebase.

This eventually heads into Kirstenbosch on the top contour before connecting with Cecilia all the way to the Constantia Nek car park. “The Pipe Track above Camps Bay is also planned to be added to the network but is undergoing serious repairs that will take possibly two years to complete,” he said.

The journey has been long, dating back to June 28, 2012 when mountain bikers met at the Chrysalis Academy to create TMMTB and to discuss the Environmental Management Plan (EMP).

The idea was that of Mr Bell who, after receiving numerous complaints from mountain bike users asked them to form a forum. And they did, and according to Mr De Villiers they are excited about not only the reopening but also what the future holds.

Mr Bell said the area was closed to the public for safety and rehabilitation purposes following the fire in March last years. “It was in the interest of public safety as well as protection of environmental integrity that Silvermine and Tokai were closed,” he said. “The mountain bike tracks are certainly going to surprise many riders,” he said. “All the groups who’ve worked on the tracks, namely volunteers and TokaiMTB, are paid contractors who’ve applied a lot of thought and energy into the reconstruction of the trails both from an environmental and enjoyment point of view,” he said, adding that the main focus is to have fun. “To have this level of trail construction on a mountain surrounded by a city and easily accessible is going to be hard to find anywhere else in the world. People are even moving to Tokai just to be closer to the trails,” said Mr De Villiers.

Robert Vogel, chief executive officer of the Pedal Power Association (PPA), said initially the trails will be open on weekends only (except Christmas) while contractors remove the remaining burnt and dangerous pine and gum trees that continue to pose a risk to users.

TokaiMTB have installed fences, maps and signage showing clearly which areas to avoid. “And SANParks has requested a trial period, to see whether cyclists stick to the designated routes and don’t stray into the off-limits areas,” said Mr Vogel.

The PPA assisted in providing the bulk of the funding needed for the reconstruction of the trails which also allowed for two contractors to apply the finishing touches to various iconic trails. A sponsored TokaiMTB security initiative will provide early detection in a joint initiative with SANParks, however, they recommend riding in groups of four or more and advise not carrying valuables. Mr De Villiers said they are encouraging users to ride to Tokai using some of the new non-motorised transport (NMT) and greenbelt routes. “All the tracks seem to lead to Tokai and SANPArks has also built a cycle path leading from Zwaanswyk Road up to the upper Tokai trails,” he said.

BLOB Trail open times are from 7am to 6pm, Saturday and Sunday until further notice, excluding Christmas Day. Tokai gate times May to September, 8am to 5pm, October to April, 7am to 6pm; Silvermine gate times, May to August, 8am to 5pm, September to April, 7am to 6pm. The access fee is R75 for a TMNP day permit and a TMNP annual activity card is R500.