Scene Four: First Meeting with our Sponsors

Two Rivers Urban Park (TRUP) encompasses the land surrounding the Liesbeek River and the Black River. Both the Liesbeek and the Black River had problems of pollution because of the rapid urbanisation of the city of Cape Town. While some sources of pollution along the Liesbeek River have been targeted, limiting the pollution found in the Black River remains unsuccessful. The Two Rivers Urban Park Committee developed to facilitate the collaboration between communities within the area of TRUP. Representatives from these surrounding communities meet to discuss what resources they need and to create a unified vision for the area of TRUP. Maitland Garden Village is a community that is incorporated in TRUP but does not yet have representation on this committee due to miscommunication. When MGV has a seat on the TRUP committee their community will gain the necessary resources and support for interacting with the government and implementing design changes to the land surrounding the Black River.

Cast of Characters:
The City of Cape Town’s Department of Environmental and Heritage Resource Management will serve as our sponsor throughout the duration of our project. We will be working with Juan Nomdo, Clive James, and Crispin Barrett, our and community leaders, Ronell and Sheila, from Maitland Garden Village, to develop a conceivable vision for creating and connecting a pathway to the Black River. Our advisors, Scott and Bob, were present as well as the other WPI project group focused on creating a help centre for MGV. We were pleasantly surprised to meet a member of the Two Rivers Urban Park committee, Megan Lukas, as well.

The meeting with our advisors, MGV community members Ronell and Sheila, and the city officials was held in the middle of MGV’s soccer field where our team first met Ronell and Sheila the previous afternoon. We agreed to meet on the corner of Delville Square and Beatty Avenue but when we arrived, we noticed that Delville Square was not a street corner but rather incorporated a whole side of the soccer field, thought to be the heart of MGV, because the street ran in opposite directions on either side of the field. Clive, Juan, and Crispin came to meet our WPI team with Ronell and Sheila and introduced us to Megan from the TRUP committee. We held our entire, one-hour meeting on this street “corner.” It was quite windy, which made hearing each other a little difficult, but we all stood around, the sixteen or so of us in a large circle, listening to each other.

After meeting Ronell and Sheila, we all walked over to our designated meeting place with the city officials. When we arrived at Beatty Avenue and realised that the corner of Delville Square included the whole soccer field, we thought it was quite funny and stood in the middle and wondered which side the city officials would meet us on. They met us right in the middle. During our meeting, we wondered why we were meeting with these city officials outside in the middle of the field rather than exploring the areas we were discussing while we were talking about them.

We planned to meet with our sponsors Monday morning to make sure we were all on the same page regarding how our team had prepped for our project prior to coming to Cape Town and what expectations our sponsors had for us. This meeting was moved to Tuesday and in turn, we were able to also invite Ronell and Sheila, our MGV liaisons. Some questions that we had before going into our meeting were:

  • What other examples of sustainable urban agriculture are available in Cape Town?
  • How could we incorporate Alexandra Institute and Oude Molen Eco Village in our project?
  •  Why the bridge across the M5 highway was taken down?
  •  How often we could meet with our sponsors?
  • How we could connect the pathway to other TRUP pathways or destinations?
  • How to make MGV a viable destination?
  • How to best incorporate heritage into our project?

Action and observation:
Once our sponsors arrived, we all introduced ourselves and what role we would play in the project. Clive asked us to introduce what research we had done pertaining to our project. We explained we had looked into last year’s WPI projects pertaining to the Black River’s desire lines and potential for a pathway and Maitland Garden Village. We then discussed our research on recreation, agriculture, and tourism for possible integration into a pathway along Maitland Garden Village. We also stated the research we did pertaining to pathway features and methods of collaboration with community members to create visions for the pathway. We also discussed collaboration with multiple stakeholders. Clive seemed receptive to most of the research we had conducted.

Clive gave us many suggestions on ways we could expand our research and directions our project could go. Clive mentioned local gardens in the Cape Town region that he felt each had potential to spark ideas for integration within MGV. One garden Clive mentioned was Babylonstoren because it produces a wide variety of fruits and vegetables and, since the Dutch colonists used it in the 17th century, the heritage is still a prominent feature. Another garden mentioned was the Company’s Garden because of the plan to reintroduce produce production into the garden and the rich, old history of the garden. Clive suggested our team visit both of these gardens, one of which is close to our lodging while the other is further away. There is potential to visit the further garden, Babylonstoren, with our sponsor, which would be a great opportunity to discuss features we believe could be most beneficial to the community of MGV.

Clive also mentioned an initiative in Uganda where water hyacinth, a highly invasive plant from South America is used to create products. Some of the products that were created include clothing and lampshades. Clive believes that this type of project could create revenue for MGV community members because of the current lack of income from local businesses. There would be multiple facets in creating a business out of products made from water hyacinth because there are multiple steps including carefully harvesting the plant without spreading the seeds causing the plant to spread further, and creating and selling the products. The product production could be, Clive suggested, also done by the clients at the Alexandra Institute because it is not very labor intensive and could provide work for them.

We believe the connection of the desire lines with other parts of the pathway, which in turn will connect MGV with other communities, will be key to the success of the pathway’s design. Megan’s attendance at our meeting was very useful because she knew the areas of TRUP that surround MGV and could see the bigger picture more clearly with respect to this section of the pathway fitting in with surrounding developed pathway. She recognised the need for the desire line to be connected with the bridge over the Black River across the M5 Highway. The issue has already been brought to the government’s attention but there still has been no actions have been made yet. Vincent Pallotti Hospital, which is on the river side of the M5 highway, feared that there was a security threat posed by the bridge, leading people towards the hospital. Megan felt that having Ronell and Sheila on the TRUP committee will benefit them mutually.

After the meeting, our team briefly spoke to Juan. We decided to meet on Friday morning to fully brief him on our research and initial ideas for the pathway. We will meet in MGV on Thursday to explain to the community leaders what we have researched so far and to create a preliminary vision to present to the city council. This meeting with the government was very helpful thus far and definitely gave our group some confidence and a sense of stability with our project moving forward.

Reflection and Learning:
When we first arrived at the designated meeting location with Scott and Bob and Ronell and Sheila, we were a little anxious that we might not in the right location but knew it would be very easy to find the city councilmen. We were also wondering what to expect from our first meeting with our sponsors because we had not had the opportunity to have a phone interview with them prior to arriving in Cape Town. This was our first opportunity to present our research. When we were asked what we wanted the as the final outcome of our project, we realised we were not as clear as we thought. We expected that our sponsors would provide what they wanted in the way of a final deliverable and through that we would develop our goal for the project. We had some clear ideas about what we wanted to get done and how to accomplish certain goals. After this meeting, we developed a much clearer picture of how the pieces of our project could be brought together in a cohesive matter. We got a clearer picture of the relatioinship we were expected to have with our sponsors, where we would do the group research and thinking but they would be able to point us in the right direction. We learned that similar proposals have been developed before and that our sponsors could provide necessary resources or knew people who could and give us ideas for how we could present our research in a way that will be most effective. We will be utilizing their help throughout the duration of this project.

Future Planning:

  • Visit suggested gardens to obtain information about relevant features that could be incorporated into the pathway.
  • Walk along desire lines along MGV and on the non-river side of the highway to see where desire lines have developed.
  • Look at area maps of the desire lines from the TRUP committee in order to get a clearer picture of where possible connections could be made.
  • Meet with Megan from TRUP committee to discuss other areas of TRUP and their varying levels of development.
  • Meeting Friday morning to formally present our research to Juan, Crispin, and Megan.