Wetland bridge burnt

Part of the pedestrian bridge three months ago.

A bridge that gives Westlake residents easy access to work, school and a nearby shopping centre has been burnt and vandalised, and this is not the first time.

Since it was built in 2010 by the City of Cape Town, with assistance from Westlake-based NCC Environmental Services, at a cost of
R1.2 million, dumping in the wetland and vandalism of the bridge have been rife (“Pollution threatens wetland,” Bulletin March 3, 2011).

Oil from vehicles, disposable nappies, toilet seats, condoms, hair extensions, dead animals, blankets, boxes, plastic bottles, school books, underwear, broken furniture, glass bottles, plastic tubs and beer crates… it all gets washed or blown into the wetland.

The wooden bridge crosses the wetland below the American Consulate with water passing through Pollsmoor’s grounds and Kirstenhof ending up in Zandvlei.

Before the bridge was built, people used bricks, sticks, carpeting and anything else at hand to ford the stream running through the wetland and reach the Steenberg shopping centre.

NCC environmental control officer at the time, Sara Best, said the bridge had been built in an environmentally responsible manner, and, by reducing access to the wetland, the City had hoped to reduce the incidence of littering and dumping.

But that has not happened. Now the community is asking for a concrete bridge.

A Westlake resident, who only gave his name as Nixon, said part of the wooden bridge had been burnt about three months ago. Residents relied on the bridge, he said, to get to work and school.

Helen Brown, of Little Squirrels Educare Centre in Westlake Village, said she was fedup with people wanting hand-outs.

“I’ve lived here for 25 years and there are some good, beautiful things happening here, and we have no gangsters, but the community must want social change and take responsibility for the bridge,” she said.

Tony Jantjies, chairman of Kirstenhof Community Police Forum (CPF) said the bridge was crucial for Westlake residents, especially the elderly and the physically challenged.

“It is sad to see the bridge as it is now. It is indeed the responsibility of the community to see the bridge is looked after. The quality of the bridge needs to be assessed. We’ve had talks with ward councillor Penny East to build a concrete bridge over the section at the river.”

Ms East said it was the fourth or fifth time the bridge has been badly damaged and she feared there was now structural damage.

“Budgets are not endless. The latest fire occurred at the end of the City’s budget. Now we have to scrape money together to make the bridge functional,” she said.

Work might start towards the end of April, but the four quotes the City had received for the job were higher than expected. She added that the City had decided to 18 months ago to replace the wooden bridge with a concrete one because it had been vandalised to often, but an environmental impact assessment (EIA) had required it to be a wooden one because it was in an environmentally sensitive wetland.

Building a concrete bridge, Ms East said, would require a new EIA and tenders for the work and all of that would take time.

Ms East accused the community of not valuing the bridge or caring for it.

The previous councillor, Denis Joseph, had been behind the building of the bridge in 2010. “It was beautiful. It had cast-iron railings on both edges and was wheelchair friendly. Within the first month, lights were stolen. They were replaced and stolen almost immediately and not replaced,” said Ms East.

Richard Saner, of Westlake United Church Trust (WUCT) who is also on the Kirstenhof CPF, said community leaders and the trust were asking for companies to sponsor wood, nails and other necessary materials to rebuild the bridge.

“The community will provide the labour to rebuild the bridge should that happen,” said Mr Saner.

He said the Westlake community was forming a neighbourhood watch.

Kirstenhof Police spokesperson Sergeant Deidre Solomon said no malicious damage to property case had been opened. She encourages anyone with information to contact them anonymously at 021 702 9116 to report acts of vandalism.