Residents of Seawinds and the surrounding areas have called the City of Cape Town out on “an over-expensive park”, saying the R7.6 million facility next to Italy sports field is a waste of money.
On Heritage Day last year, Sunday September 24, the City launched the Seawinds smart park, the sixth of its kind following similar ventures in Atlantis, Nomzamo, Delft, Khayelitsha and Gugulethu.
The project involved an upgrade of a portion of an existing Recreation and Parks facility.
JP Smith, the City Of Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for safety and security and social services, said the smart park provided a new take on outdoor recreation. He said the City was developing high quality parks in the most under-served areas and opening opportunities to residents that they would have had to travel great distances before to access.
The park has a water play area where children can learn about the water cycle and splash around in shallow water; an area focused on younger children’s play; a multi-purpose playground, two multi-purpose courts that can host a variety of ball games, a picnic area and covered stage, as well as outdoor exercise areas.
The smart park design even won the City an award for excellence from the Institute for Landscape Architecture but residents claim the park is not able to be fully used by the community.
Community leader Aubrey Robinson said taxpayers’ money was wasted when the City built the facility.
“It has become a big white elephant. Imagine how many RDP houses could have been built with that amount of money. The youth and children only used the park on the day that it was launched. Besides that, when children do use it, they have to duck and dive from bullets flying around because of the gang war,” said Mr Robinson.
He said the few times he has been at the park he felt unsafe and the gates to the park were padlocked.
“I know someone who walked to the park with children and found that the gate to the park was locked. She turned back and was robbed on her way home. This is just one of the stories I’ve heard from people. So money has been spent on a park that isn’t being used and it’s a danger for our people to use it,” said Mr Robinson.
Hillview resident Washiela Manuel Johnson said when she wants to take her children to the park it is almost always closed.
“I have a 2 year old, four year old and 7 year old. I thought the park being in our community would be a good idea but it’s never open. I walk my eldest to school and want to take my other children to the park but its always closed, except later in the afternoon. What’s the point of having such an expensive park if we as parents and our children can’t use it?” asked Ms Johnson.
Sharleen McKay, also a resident, said the park was always a welcomed facility in the area.
“Our children need this park. It is a very nice park but my only worry is that it’s a bit dangerous with all the gang shootings that has been happening in the area. We as a community can’t blame the City for that. We should blame the gangsters for making it unsafe for our children. We need to take our communities back from these gangsters to build a better and safer future for our children,” said Ms McKay.
Eddie Andrews, Mayoral committee member for area south, said the park is not a white elephant as there are more than 200 children and young adults using the facility on a daily basis.
“For the safety of park users, the facility is kept closed during the week during school hours until 2.30pm. Over weekends, it is open from 8am till 6pm. This does not apply to day-care centres as they are welcome to use the facility throughout the morning under supervision,” said Mr Andrews.
He added that each day-care centre has an allocated time slot to ensure that the supervisor can monitor their own children safely.
“There have been no reports of safety concerns nor incidents of violence since the park’s opening. While there are sporadic incidents of gang violence in the area, there have been no incidents that have had an impact on the park or its users while at the facility,” said Mr Andrews.
He said there are also two security guards on duty at the park on a 24-hour basis, seven days a week.
Responding to comments that the R7.6 million could have been used for houses, Mr Andrews said the establishment of good quality recreational spaces for children is as important as building houses.
“One cannot have the one without the other. These play facilities are important for children as it helps to develop their physical and mental health. One only needs to watch these children play to understand how much they appreciate and enjoy this recreational space. This certainly was not an ‘unnecessary spend’,” he said.
Although the City does not have specific numbers on record to show how many children visit the park daily, they estimate over 200.
“Anyone is welcome to visit the park, especially after school hours, and see for themselves,” said Mr Andrews.
There have also been requests for special events such as birthday parties and year-end functions and organisations from Lavender Hill who want to book the venue for an entire year.