Timeslive.co.za – 22 March 2018

Joburg parks are getting safer and more user-friendly. A new initiative run by non-profit organisation Jozi Trails will see increased security‚ better signage and designated trails for cyclists‚ joggers‚ walkers and picnickers.

“There has been much concern about the user groups on the Braamfontein Spruit and the deterioration of trails used. User groups have a lot of conflict in certain areas of high traffic‚” said Louise Gordon‚ executive manager of business development of Joburg City Parks and Zoo.

The initiative‚ which has received an endorsement of City Parks‚ will see security patrolling the area‚ improved signage‚ maintenance of the trails and environmental management.

The community has been more than willing to get involved with companies donating bicycles for patrols and one security company offering their services for free.

“It’s amazing how many people are coming forward wanting to help‚” said Albert van Urk‚ director of Jozi Trails.

24/7 Security Services is sponsoring four public safety ambassadors to patrol the area from 6am to 6pm on weekends.

The public will be able to report suspicious activity or request help through an app.

“We are using an existing app called mySOS. People will be able to link themselves to Jozi trails. They have a dedicated button in the app to get through to 24/7 security. The security company will receive your location and be able to assist. Should police be required‚ they will contact them.

“In the first three months‚ we are going to run the security just over weekends and only our first area. Based on the successful completion of that‚ we’re looking to expand that to seven days a week‚” said Van Urk.

The pilot project will cover Delta Park‚ Emmarentia and all the trails connecting them.

In time‚ it is hoped the project can expand to cover some 37 kilometers from Albert’s Farm to Fourways.

“It is a very exciting project as (the city) sees the Spruit as a legacy project with buy-in from the surrounding communities and establishing it as a tourism attraction‚” said Louise Gordon‚ executive manager of business development of Joburg City Parks and Zoo.

Recently City Parks contracted a consultant group to do a study of the Spruit and found that there are as many as 4‚000 people using the trails on the weekends.

“The survey done with users indicated what they use the trails for and it has turned into a lifestyle for people living adjacent to the Spruit and even travelling as far as Pretoria to use it for recreation and sport. (City Parks) also allows an annual event to take place and this project will cater for the maintenance for such events‚” said Gordon.

Van Urk said‚ “I came to Joburg about 10 years ago and it was no go zone. Through the last number of years there are so many more people using the Spruit. People have reclaimed it.”

“It’s correct that the crime in those specific areas have come down in the last few years. Unfortunately‚ it has not yet been eradicated‚ so we would definitely like to expand our security offering to the other areas as quickly as possible. But that’s a combination of proper systems in place and having a big enough sponsorship or money to actually roll that out.”