Dog park destroyed

It is no walk in the park for Woodstock dog lovers, after a film crew turned the space into a temporary base camp during a film shoot nearby.

The dog-walking park in Victoria Walk, opposite the old Woodstock Day Hospital, is a firm favourite for dog lovers, who frequently let their “fur children” run free there.

But when Vanessa Cross, of Woodstock, visited the park with her German shepherd last week she made a shocking discovery: half the park had been occupied by vehicles and caravans and the other half was a mess.

“They drove over the other half and ripped up the ground. It did not help that it started to rain as well, which made matters worse,” she said. “The park was never in a great condition, but the film crew showed no respect at all by just damaging it further.”

Ms Cross said that when she had complained to one of the film crew on the set, she was told they would make things rights when the shoot was over, but they never did.

“The film crew actually packed up and left, not having done anything to address the damages. This is supposed to be a public facility that was allowed to be used as a parking lot, never mind their fancy term of a ‘base camp’. We already have very little spaces to use in and around our communities, then we have people like this who show no respect towards something which we care for,” she said.

Shafiek Khan said he had stood on the outskirts of the park and watched the film crew damaging it.

“They had vans moving in and out. Some even got stuck in the mud, but they drove their way out of it – on the field is where they wanted to be. This piece of ground already looked bad before, but the dogs love the space. It simply looks terrible now, and any rain that comes will do further damage.”

Mr Khan blamed the City of Cape Town for being too lenient in the way it let companies use public spaces for businesses.

“It’s hard to actually think about it. Tomorrow I invite my friends here to kick some ball on the grass; in no time, you will have law enforcement here to remove you from the venue and, in some instances, even fine you for that transgression. Here you have a number of vehicles, not damaging, but destroying public property – a space that belongs to the community and our dogs and everything is okay.”

Ward councillor Dave Bryant said he had not known the film company, Out of Africa Productions, would be using the park as a base camp, although he had been aware of the film shoot at the old hospital.

The combination of rain and the vehicles on site had left the park in a “very bad condition” and the City’s film and events office would meet with the film company to discuss its conduct. The office had also given the assurance that the field would be returned to “an acceptable condition” by the company.

“Our departments are doing their best to ensure that this does not happen again,” Mr Bryant said.

Production companies have to do online bookings for City-owned properties via the online film permit system. The application is then forwarded to the relevant City department, i.e. the custodian for that particular property. The department approved the use of the park for this purpose. “Please note that the conditions of approval stipulate that any damage that occurs will be rectified by the party responsible as soon as possible. The reparation will be subject to the specifications and approval by the City,” JP Smith, mayco member for safety and security; and social services.

He explained that the damage to the park was a direct result of the heavy overnight rain. When the production company moved into the park, the ground was dry but became waterlogged overnight. The damage occurred when the trucks moved off the muddy fields the next day.

“It should also be noted that the informal dog park does not have a drainage system as this is not a requirement for a dog park,” Mr Smith added.

Out of Africa’s location manager Luke Longmore, said they took “full responsibility for our actions and we have committed to resolving this issue”.

They would repair the damages and restore the field to it’s former glory, “perhaps even better than what it looked like before”.

“Even if this was in Langa, Constantia or anywhere else, we would still take responsibility for what was done. We regret what had happened and we committed to repairing those damages caused by our production company,” he said, adding they hoped to start the work next week.

The City’s Film Permit Office together with the City Recreation and Parks Department will monitor the repairs until satisfactory repairs have been completed, Mr Smith confirmed.

“The production company has given a commitment to the Film Permit Office, Recreation and Parks Department and the community that they will attend to the repairs,” Mr Smith said.