The annual IERM convention was held on the 28th,29th and 30th of September at Glenburn Lodge in Johannesburg. After two days of informative and insightful lectures everyone was excited to spend the third day out in the field to view some of the parks developed by Johannesburg City Parks (JCP). The atmosphere was relaxed and jovial as everyone climbed onto the luxury air-conditioned buses that the City of Joburg had sponsored, which we were so grateful for when the temperatures soared into the high thirties.
The first park we visited was Leratong Park where you are welcomed by a large red steel sculpture, consisting of several hands on tall masts shaped in the hand signal that means “I love you” in sign language. The park is situated in Region C, located in the Greater Roodepoort area near Krugersdorp, in an informal settlement and named after the nearby Leratong Hospital.
Puleng Ditabe, Regional Manager of Region C, shared insights into the park and described the two main challenges that they were faced, the first was finding suitable space for development. The park is in fact built on a servitude where Rand Water pipes run and ironically you will see signs throughout the park warning people to stay clear of the area because of the pipes running below, although this is quite the contrary now that the park has been built. Although it is risky this was one of the only open areas available and Rand Water and JCP were able to come to an agreement because the pipes do not need to be accessed regularly. The second challenge was vandalism as they had a recycling station that was burned.
The park is 2 hectares in size and boasts numerous brand new facilities including: artificial turf soccer field, netball court, outdoor gym, braai areas, two playground areas, ablutions and a vegetable garden. The vegetable garden has not been handed over to the community yet and I imagine that managing this production in a public space has its own challenges. Planting Fruit Trees was raised as a question and Thabang Mokone from JCP mentioned that Urban Forestry and Food Security are priorities for the City of Johannesburg and educating people is what is needed for fruit trees to become successful.
As with any successful park the community needs to take ownership and adopt the facility as its own. Only in this way will the community take pride in it and make sure that it is maintained and cared for. We met two of the community members who have been permanently employed to work in Leratong Park: David, head gardener, who reports to a senior horticulturalist and Fortunate who not only looks after the ablutions, but acts as a mother and caretaker to the park.
Many Olive and Bushwillow trees have been planted which is in line with the City of Joburg’s drive to make the Southern suburbs greener. The park is not fenced off and neighbouring houses are encouraged to have gates that open onto the park so that they can use and enjoy it. Phase 1 was completed in 2014 financial year and cost R1.7 million while Phase 2 was recently completed in 2015 and cost R2.4 million. A large amount of money was invested into this flagship park and it is evident that its investors care deeply about it, now it is up to the community to fall in love with it too.