The cost of revamping Nantes Park, at an estimated cost of R14 million, has become the source of a raging debate between ward councillors, City Parks, schools and civic associations.
City Parks' landscape architect, Samantha Glen, pitched the plan to revamp Nantes Park, currently a derelict stretch of land in Bridgetown, to the local councillors at Subcouncil 17's meeting on Thursday, 16 August.
Glen says there is currently no budget available to develop the park, and the plan will seek to raise funds for the revamping of the park.
The overall cost could be in the region of R14 million, it was heard in the subcouncil meeting, but Glen argues that the cost could be divided into smaller amounts allowing for it to be developed over time.
Nantes Park - more commonly known as Athlone Park - runs along Appledene Road in Bridgetown and stretches to the back of the popular Vangate Mall.
If approved and funded, the park could become a venue for music concerts, informal trading, soccer games, skateboarding competitions, braais and nature walks.
Glen says the overall concept of the park is to expose more people in the area to nature and to create a place for events to occur.
A promenade is planned to be built along the Vygieskraal River. A braai area, sports field, parking area, kiosk and informal trading areas have been envisioned for the area. Glen says the top eastern area close to Vangate Mall would probably be handed over to river rehabilitation.
Ward councillor Charlotte Tabisher is in favour of the project, because she believes it will generate jobs for locals.
"This will not be a white elephant. There will be flea market on the park that can generate an income for the residents," Tabisher says.
"Now there will be a place for children to play and people to braai in safety," she says.
However, area coordinator Edgar Carollisen says unless the park has an economically viable business plan, the idea will be dead in the water before it has begun. Carollisen is firm on the matter.
"We need a business approach and a clear management plan for the park," he says.
He says there are more important issues in the area that need funding, such as unemployment and housing.
Felicity Seragie from the Bridgetown Civic Association says City Parks should first complete the projects they are currently running, such as fencing the existing parks, before starting new projects.
"How can it start new projects when the streets are not being cleaned and there is not decent equipment in the existing parks" Seragie asks.
"Nantes Park could become a white elephant. They invest money into parks and then the areas are under utilised and not maintained," she says.
Commenting on the matter yesterday, Susan Price, from City Parks, says the cost to revamp the park will more likely to be closer to R8 million. She says City Parks did approach churches and schools in the area for their participation and input into the plan.
Price says City Parks hopes to apply for funding for the park from the Department of Environment and Tourism, neighbourhood development grants and provisional funding.
She says the plans of the park may ultimately change within a five year time frame. "At one time Nantes Park was an important open space, but now it is used for drugs and crime. Park usage will make the area safer and discourage the invasion of squatters," she says.
Toyer Arnold, principal of Bridgetown High School, says he was never contacted in connection the revamping of Nantes Park. Arnold's main concern was safety in the park. "The problem will be vagrants. I have heard of people being mugged and girls raped in the park. We would have to employ a park keeper and deploy truant officers to bring back children from loitering in the park," he says.
In his personal capacity, Arnold was keen on the idea that the park would be available for athletic meetings because Green Point stadium and Athlone Stadium had been rendered unavailable due to the 2010 World Cup.
Carollisen concluded that all related departments will need to be consulted before the concept can be accepted or declined.