by Dianne Tipping-Woods and Mike Lodge
The West Coast Region of Honorary Rangers yesterday formally handed over a brand new 20-seater Mercedes Benz bus to West Coast National Park. The bus will be used to support the parks youth outreach efforts. Says Park Manager Xola Mkefe, "three and a half thousand kids visit our parks as part of eco-educational programmes, and that does not include the 500 kids from the 'kids in the park' programme. Many of these kids have no way of exploring the 30 000 hectare park".
Children will now have the opportunity to visit all areas in the Park, and gain practical hands-on experience on the ecology-related subjects that they have just learned about in the classroom. "The bus will totally change the way the kids experience our park, allowing us to expose more of it to our young minds", says Mkefe.
The eco-educational courses that children attend include formal curriculum-based workshops, as well as life-skills programmes. These course sometimes involve overnight stays in the park, and the kids are actively able to partcipate in conservation work, learn about thier heritage and engage in activities such as hiking.
The Rolf-Stephan Nussbaum Foundation and a Cape Town benefactor, Mrs. Rosemary Smythe, jointly helped finance this bus. Funds were collected over a two-year period. The deilvery of another two such buses for use by the Park's socio-ecologists are planned.
Says West Coast region HR, Mike Lodge, "the park and the honorary rangers are deeply indebted to these two sponsors and take this opportunity to thank them yet again".
Over 100 Honorary Ranger benefactors and friends attended a sponsored finger supper with drinks, which occasioned the formal presentation of the bus to SANParks on the afternoon of 12 July 2006 at the Geelbek Education Centre in the West Coast National Park.
3 Presentation of Bus keys and paperwork by donor, Rosemary Smythe to Park Manager, Xola Mkefe.
2 The Bus before the ribbon-cutting ceremony.