Reservoir drowning

Wilma Jansen van Veuren, Rondebosch

First of all, my condolences to the families of the deceased.

After reading the article about the recent drownings at the Rhodes Memorial reservoir in the Tatler (“Cops warn about dam after two drowings” January 16) I found myself quite upset.

I loved swimming in the reservoir many years ago. It was a tranquil spot where nature lovers went for a quiet swim in secret and we respected the area by not polluting it with noise or litter.

But after being told by a park ranger that it was illegal and we would get fined, many of us stopped going.

Imagine my surprise when a year or so later, I saw people walking up to the previously secret spot with cooler boxes and inflatables in broad daylight!

Following the crowd, I was shocked by the sight of so many people.

Worse still, the place had lost all its natural appeal: the mountainside of the dam (an area with many trees) had become an open toilet – people were playing loud music and smoking weed.

It was tough to find a spot on the banks that was not covered in cigarette butts, plastic wrappers or glass shards.

As many of them seemed to be young adults, they were there for the party, which, of course, meant consuming way too much alcohol – a deadly combination with a water body nearby.

I was appalled and vowed never to return to this once scenic spot.

The drowning was an accident waiting to happen, and I’m just surprised by how there seemed to be no control from the Table Mountain National Park side.

This after they were so strict about getting rid of a handful of people who went there during the summer months a few years ago.

I talked to a ranger at Silvermine about this two months ago, and his answer was confusing as he maintained that people would just have to deal with whatever happens there and it wasn’t their responsibility anymore as people just kept trespassing regardless.

This surprised me. Wouldn’t it make more sense to charge a small fee, employ a few lifesavers, and let Capetonians enjoy the beautiful spot?

It’ll be a win-win situation: no more obnoxious groups disturbing the peace and leaving behind a trail of litter as the area would be monitored and park rules enforced.

Also, steady work could be created for a couple of rangers and lifeguards, keeping families safe to enjoy a bit of nature available to them as citizens of the city.

Lauren Clayton, regional communications manager for SANParks, responds:

The Rhodes Memorial Dam is a water-catchment dam that has been in existence for a number of years and is used as a water storage for fire suppression efforts and was never intended for recreational use, including swimming.

The dam also plays an important role in terms of the City of Cape Town stormwater management as it traps excess spring water from the mountain.

The area surrounding the dam is fenced off to deter the illegal use with additional signage erected near the dam directing users to the Newlands picnic area where access is regulated, but despite all these efforts, the fence and signage have been vandalised on numerous occasions and the dam has been accessed illegally.

Currently, there are rangers operating within the dam area to ensure that no persons enter/make use of the dam illegally.

Members of the public are again urged not to use dam for swimming purposes and the public is further encouraged to report illegal usage to 021 712 0527.