The discussion pointed to areas that have been clear felled or unaffected by the threat of falling trees or logging operations. The meeting was extremely positive as more detail around Cape Pine’s felling schedule was presented, placing the aim of a possible earlier reopening date closer within reach. The goal of an earlier opening is intended for cyclists, walkers and horse riders to be allowed use of sections of the park jeep-track that does not impede on any projects, nor place the visitor in undue danger as a result of the fire that brought on the closures in March.
This idea was originally presented to Table Mountain National Park management by TokaiMTB in September with the express purpose of finding a safe alternative route away from the busy Ou Kaapse Weg road up to Silvermine West – due for reopening in December. The latest discussion included new information showing the unexpected progress of the logging operations in Tokai providing an update to the schedule on which the timelines are based. The corridor through Tokai, in addition to bypassing Ou Kaapse Weg, could also provide some relief to Silvermine’s trails where the area can expect to see large numbers of users flocking back into the newly reopened trail.
It should be noted that all parties involved, including SANParks Table Mountain National Park, are extremely keen to facilitate public use of the park at the earliest reasonable opportunity. At present, Cape Pine and the contractors clearing the trees are advising SANParks that the public should not be allowed entry until all clearing is completed. In light of this instruction, all parties remain committed to working on a viable plan that could allow a possible early entry while appeasing the contractor and risk advisor’s concerns.
(While we are on the topic, TokaiMTB appeals to all users of Silvermine West to show consideration towards others as space may become congested at times while the weather continues to improve and numbers grow, seeking out their favourite recreational pastime. Walkers, sometimes with children and dogs, and cyclists, all need to please take care and apply extra caution to avoid any unwelcome incidents. This will be a favourite destination for many users especially on good weather weekends.)
Many ideas around early Tokai access were presented and discussed in detail, while the main point of consideration remained the safety of the users and the need for compliance with regard to the terms of reopening should the application be successful.
Several commercial logging teams comprising both Cape Pine and private contractors, who have bought compartments of pine from Cape Pine, are working simultaneously in different parts of Tokai. Logging operations have redirected some focus back to the gum trees in the lower reaches of the reserve namely; level 1 “My Roots” through to the upper Arboretum bordering level 2. All access leading higher into the reserve is closed as these areas run alongside the jeep track accessing the upper slopes.
The areas where gum felling operations are underway are scheduled to be completed by July 2016. It is due to the scale of the gum felling operations, where trees measuring up to 75 meters in height, that risk is greatly increased as the trees are required to fall in close proximity to the jeep track and accessed by specialist heavy machinery brought in to cope with the weight of these trees. As an indication of scale, 1 gum tree fills a double trailer truck that could normally carry between 20 - 30 pines per load.
The remaining pine compartments are expected to be removed by March 2016. These pines are found on a combination of level 1, 4, 5 and on the upper Silvermine amphitheater slopes. The Silvermine trees above level 5 pose yet another challenge as specialist high-angle crews qualified to traverse steep cliff faces, are required to carry out this part of clearing. It is expected that due to the vertical slope, the felled trees will fall some distance to the road below or even beyond. The risk factor around this operation was stressed several times in the meeting and again served as a valid reason why this part of the area could not be reopened before March 2016.
TokaiMTB understands the implications caused by the fire to local industry and recreational users. We continue to remain committed to the public while working with stakeholders in securing a world-class vision for Tokai and surrounds.