In two short years, Friends of the Rosebank and Mowbray Greenbelt (F.R.O.G.) has transformed the greenbelt between the Rygersdal Sports Club to the N2 freeway bridge in Mowbray.
The overhaul of the area alongside the Liesbeek River has been so successful that a Dutch student was even heard to remark that the precinct reminded her of Holland, with families riding peacefully along the canals.
By no means has the process been an easy one. When residents and business owners first embarked on their ambitious plan to “green” the area, the stretch of land was not considered safe, and it was only through the determination of committee members and volunteers that the transformation was made possible.
“We had to come up with a framework plan, and the process also involved numerous workships within the community,” said F.R.O.G chairwoman Charlotte Chamberlain. “We had to draw up a number of long-term plans.”
One of these plans came to fruition earlier this year with the establishment of a new path linking Durban Road with the village green. F.R.O.G. had applied for funding from the City ward allocation, and the contract was subsequently organised by the City parks department.
More recently, the organisation successfully campaigned for the broken vibracrete wall between Gordon’s Gym and the path to be removed. “The wall had become an eyesore, and it didn’t provide any security. In fact, it provided a hiding place for any criminal elements in the area. Now that it has been removed, you can do a loop all the way round if you want to walk the area,” Ms Chamberlain said.
Another aspect that has stood out is the inclusion of homeless and underprivileged people in F.R.O.G.’s clean-up operations.
Gill Lanham, one of the group’s maintenance co-ordinators, said many came into the area desperate for a four-hour “Straatwerk shift”, walking from Athlone or further afield and camping overnight.
“I met most of the people in the past two years at the St Peter’s Church community suppers. The essence of the dinners is to build relationships. It really feels great, that they are helping us to beautify public open space,” Ms Lanham said. “The idea to work with people on an ad hoc basis came from an article I read about German alcoholics working in parks for a few hours a day, getting paid a stipend and given beer as well. A generous donation from a F.R.O.G. committee member got things started last December but when that money ran out, I hosted an entertainment evening at the Alma Cafe. I pay R25 an hour. I also got a donation from someone who stayed with me from Rwanda.”
She said they had done the most work in the area around the “silo”, trimming back trees and dragging branches to a collection point under the guidance of her fellow co-ordinator Doug Metcalfe.
“They help to keep the area clean, even when we are not around. First we tied bags in the trees, then Myles Siebrits of Rustenburg Girls’ High School gave us black bins. Recently we were also given green bins by the council.”
Ms Chamberlain said members were heavily involved in introducing environmentally-appropriate plants to the greenbelt, particularly along the river banks.
“We are also looking into the possibility of planting an urban food garden,” she said.