Cleaner water, safer hiking for Wilderness community
Bob Hopkin GARDEN ROUTE CORRESPONDENT
AN eight-month co-operative project between the George municipality and Wilderness National Park has resulted in the double benefit of increased security of water supply for the local village and a much improved hiking trail along the Touw River ravine.
Water supply for the village is sourced from a treatment plant near the Ebb and Flow camps which draws water from below the cascade on the river, as well as using a pipeline from George. The age of the waterfall pipeline, its restricted diameter and the damage caused by the floods of November 2007 prompted the municipality to consider a major upgrade.
As the source of the water is in one of the most scenic and popular parts of Wilderness National Park, it was vital that the project was allowed to continue without compromising the Giant Kingfisher Trail, popular with tourists.
SANParks senior section ranger Nellie Grootendorst said there was extensive consultation between the municipality and SANParks before a mutually acceptable solution was reached.
The solution was to bury the new feed pipe where soil conditions allowed, but along the rocky part of the trail (most of it), to leave the pipe above ground, obscured by a new 1,8km-long wooden boardwalk.
There have traditionally been two parallel trails in the Touw River valley: the Giant and Half-Collared Kingfisher Trails � one on each bank of the river. With assistance from the local branch of the Honorary Rangers, a volunteer organisation attached to SANParks, a hand-powered pontoon was added to link the two trails about midway along their length.
Thanks to this link, hikers can now start their outing on the less strenuous Half-Collared Trail, cross the river to the eastern bank on the pontoon and complete their walk to the waterfall along the newly completed boardwalk.
The R6,9-million project, which included replacing the aged pipeline and installing the new boardwalk, was funded by George municipality.