Treekeepers – a tree-conservancy group – says it is concerned about the ongoing removal of trees and the dumping of garden waste on the verges of Southern Cross Drive.
The organisation says the loss of the trees and the mounds of garden waste are marring what should be a scenic 3km drive from Brommersvlei Road to Rhodes Drive, in the Belle Ombre area of Constantia.
In November, TreeKeepers member Tirzah Webb contacted the City’s recreation and parks department to complain that an 8m-high London plane tree had been poisoned and then removed from the verge in front of Warwick Square, in South Cross Drive, across the road from where she said two other large trees had been illegally felled a few years earlier.
Further up Southern Cross Drive, close to Pinehurst Road, lie the stumps of 10 large pine trees with piles of garden waste on a nearby verge that appear to have been thrown over walls and fences of the houses that back onto the road.
Ms Webb said the problem dated back to December 2017 when tree fellers had been seen cutting down two trees on the verge of a Nahoon Road property that backs onto Southern Cross Drive. She took a picture of the fellers’ signage.
Law Enforcement and the City recreation and parks department had investigated and interviewed the Nahoon Road property owner, but he had denied culpability, and the tree fellers had refused to say who had hired them. The owner had continued to allow his gardener to dump rubbish over his wall and onto the verge, Ms Webb claimed, although when the Bulletin approached the owner for comment he denied dumping the refuse or having the trees felled.
Ms Webb said the tree fellers had agreed to replant two new trees on the Southern Cross Drive verge. “But they did not water them to establish them as required in the agreement with City parks. The trees therefore died in 2018,” she said.
We contacted the tree-felling company on Friday February 25 and spoke to Emile who said he had had a k*k day, had not been paid in full for removing the trees and had had to then buy new trees and pay a fine.
“It’s a f****ng mess. A k*k mess. I will f****ng find you, bitch,” said Emile when he realised who was calling.
We then left a voice message on his partner’s phone, requesting comment, but he did not call back.
A woman who lives at Warwick Square said the men who had removed the London plane tree had said they were from the municipality.
Mayoral committee member for urban waste management Grant Twigg said residents were not allowed to dump garden waste onto verges. “Garden offcuts can constitute a fire hazard, and can encourage pests. Grass cuttings can also introduce nutrients from fertiliser and pesticides to our stormwater system, including rivers and vleis, increasing the risk of toxic algae blooms, as well as blockages/flooding.”
Residents could dispose of up to 1.5 tons of garden refuse for free at municipal dumps, he said.
A City parks official, who spoke on condition that we did not use his name as he is not an official City spokesman, said the London plane tree in Southern Cross Drive had struggled to recovered after being poisoned and they had removed it to stop it toppling into the road or causing property damage.
Regarding the other trees across the road and near to Pinehurst Road, he said they had been cut down, over several years, for various reasons. About five years ago, a large branch had snapped from one of the trees and had caused damage to the neighbouring property. Another pine had then uprooted and caused more damage to the property. The pines had been removed in consultation with the City’s arborist as they were ageing and increasingly unstable.
He denied knowledge of the tree fellers in the picture sent by Ms Webb and said the City’s contractor had removed the trees. He added that the City did not define Southern Cross Drive as a scenic route.
City parks said they maintained trees on verges but they asked the public to water them until they were established, which usually took three to five years, after which the City would do the maintenance.
The City plans to participate in the national plan by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment to plant 10 million trees (“Call to plant 10 million trees could give Cape Town back its shade,” Bulletin, January 22).
The City parks official said they planned to plant additional trees as resources allowed and would also promote tree planting by the public.