Scene Five: Trip to the Liesbeek River

Pathway along the Liesbeek River

Backstory: The Liesbeek River, similarly to the Black River, falls within the boundaries of Two Rivers Urban Park. The Liesbeek River runs through more affluent communities than the Black River and already has a beautifully developed pathway system along side of it. Our advisors, Juan and Crispin, wanted to show us sections along the Liesbeek River in order to inspire us while writing our proposal and give us an idea as to what features are integrated into the pathway.

Cast of Characters:
Our sponsors, Juan and Crispin, showed us specific features along the Liesbeek River.


  • Learn about efforts made to keep the river clean
  • Look at examples of different styles of pathways along the river
  • Take pictures for proposal

The pathway team went to 44 Wale Street to meet Juan and Crispin so we could go together to visit the Liesbeek River. After meeting on the 5th floor, we split up into two cars so we could drive to the

Bench by the Liesbeek River pathway

first destination. We first stopped at a location along the Liesbeek that was across the street from an affluent community. The river was enclosed in trees with a narrow, tar pathway running along it. The river was left in its natural state with a shallow, rocky bottom and not canalised in this section. On the other side of the river, there was a woodchip path with benches, signage, and beautiful flora. We then made another stop along the Liesbeek River that was next to the South African Breweries. The beer brewery uses water from the Liesbeek in their refinery process. Water is also pumped back into the river after it is used to rinse the brewing containers, which was a point of pollution. The river here was canalised at one time but then the concrete was broken up to give the river bank a rougher, rocky bottom to promote river growth. The pathway here was wider and paved; it was also shady and there were benches. There were a few people walking dogs along the path and there were clothes that had been washed in the river left to dry on a banister. Our final stop was near the University of Cape Town. This was a more open section of the pathway that had parking space integrated and was canalised to increase the flow rate of water under the overpass we were standing on in order to prevent people from sleeping under the bridge.

Reflection and Learning:
Our trip with Juan and Crispin was insightful as it allowed us to have a look at what a developed river pathway and restored river can look like. We briefly discussed the importance of pathway elements and how to incorporate them into the natural habitat rather than distort it. Most importantly though, we learned that for many sections of the Liesbeek River it is not just the city that takes care of the maintenance, but neighborhood organizations that are involved with Friends of the Liesbeek. Friends of the Liesbeek is a volunteer group that aims to create awareness of the river, so as to promote its well-being and restoration. Different sections of the river are surrounded by residential communities and often it is the residents of these areas who help fund the regular maintenance of the pathway. It is clear that Friends of the Liesbeek has been a significant influence on the river and pathway, as it has motivated people to support the conservation of the river and its natural surroundings. Not only are residents involved with the conservation of the Liesbeek, but South African Breweries and the South African Rugby Union are as well. With large businesses required to donate a percentage of their earnings to socio-economic and environmental betterment programs, bringing them on board as stakeholders is key.

Interpretative sign by the pathway

Getting residential communities to realize the importance of such an asset is a key first step in restoration. Moving forward with the Black River pathway planning, it will be important to generate community buy-in. Once the community is sold on the idea of the area’s importance, they will work hard to do what they can to preserve and restore it. With the community committed to supporting such an initiative, businesses and corporations can then be brought on as financial sponsors. One of the key differences between the communities surrounding the Liesbeek River and those surrounding the Black River is that many of the residents in the Liesbeek River area are much more affluent. When it comes to financially supporting the maintenance of the Liesbeek River and pathway, there is not an issue, whereas with the Black River rallying financial support may be more difficult. Hence, company sponsorship can be a great asset to Black River pathway and restoration projects.