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Media Release: Commercial pine harvesting in Tokai Plantation, TMNP
Date: 23rd August 2013
Come Monday 26 August 2013, harvesting of the next section of commercial pines in the Tokai plantation will begin. The pines will be harvested by forestry company, Cape Pine (formerly MTO Forestry) per the company’s harvesting schedule. The section, or ‘compartment’ of pines to be harvested is located along upper Tokai Road, opposite the Table Mountain National Park’s (TMNP) Tokai picnic and braai site.
The harvesting process will take approximately 4 – 5 weeks and although no road closures or major traffic delays are expected along upper Tokai Road, the public may experience some inconvenience during this time. Cyclists, pedestrians, vehicles and horse riders are urged to exercise caution when using upper Tokai Road, as heavy vehicles and forestry trucks may be encountered.
Horse riders will not be able to access the area via the gate on the corner of Tokai and Zwaanswyk Roads during the harvesting period.
During the harvesting, SANParks engages with the harvesting company to ensure that access to the Tokai Plantation over weekends is retained and that restrictions are kept to a minimum for all users of this popular area of the TMNP. SANParks will also ensure that damages to roadways and paths by the heavy harvesting vehicles will be monitored and any damages repaired.
This particular area of the Tokai Plantation is the only place left on earth with the opportunity to restore an ecological corridor to link the lowland fynbos with the fynbos on the mountain and to ensure the long-term survival of the critically endangered Cape Flats Sand Fynbos, as per the Management Framework for the Tokai and Cecilia areas of the TMNP.
A second compartment of pines in Tokai is also due for harvesting, located above the Arboretum and below level 2 management track, however the commencement date has not yet been confirmed by Cape Pine.
Background to pine harvesting in Tokai and Cecilia Plantation:
Tokai (and Cecilia) are not natural forests but commercial plantations established in the early 1900s by government to provide timber for industry.
The decision to phase out commercial plantations on the Peninsula was made by the national government in 1999. The trees are not being removed as part of an alien clearing program; they are being harvested for commercial use. Furthermore, the trees are not being harvested by SANParks. The commercial harvesting rights were awarded to a private company, Cape Pine, formerly known as MTO Forestry, via public tender by the then Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) in 2004. As part of the tender process, MTO Forestry purchased the trees from Government and has a 20-year lease with DAFF, in terms of which they harvest the plantation trees in compartments of same age trees. This is a contractually binding, irreversible legal commitment. Once the trees in a compartment are harvested by Cape Pine, that land is then transferred to SANParks for management as part of Table Mountain National Park.
Following the public participation process initiated by SANParks in 2006 regarding the rehabilitation of the areas and future plans for Tokai and Cecilia, the Tokai and Cecilia Management Framework effectively addresses the compromise many have called for, as it seeks to accommodate biodiversity, heritage, recreational and eco-tourism concerns and opportunities.
Critically, the Management Framework addresses the thorny issue of shade provision:
Firstly, the plantations are being harvested over a 20-year period. Some of the plantation compartments, which provide for shaded recreation, will remain until the end of the lease period in 2024.
Secondly, various existing shaded areas will be retained such as the Arboretum, braai site (albeit in a re-aligned form), certain areas of gum trees and historic plantings (e.g. cork oaks, red woods etc.).
Thirdly, the Management Framework proposes the establishment of shaded routes at both Tokai and Cecilia. An example is the multi-use, perimeter shade route at lower Tokai, below Orpen Road. The perimeter shade route has proved popular for recreational use by walkers, dog walkers, cyclists and horse riders. At Cecilia a shaded route from Constantia Nek to Kirstenbosch is planned which will provide ‘broken’ shade along existing heritage plantings (the cork oaks), through the riverine kloofs and ‘transition’ planting areas.
Fourthly, a radical concept was developed in the consultation process for the establishment of ‘transition planting areas’ where non-invasive exotic shade trees could be planted in designated areas in cyclical transition with fynbos. These areas are along the periphery of lower Tokai, adjacent to the Tokai Arboretum and on the lower slopes of Cecilia. The type of tree appropriate to the area will be determined through further study and consultation with stakeholders.
Finally, recognising that TMNP is a World Heritage Site and nationally protected conservation area, we wish to point out that there are within the city areas, 18km of established public open space that form part of the Constantia and Tokai greenbelt system which can be planted with shade trees for recreation. These areas can augment the recreational use and areas developed in TMNP.
It should also be noted that there are other shaded areas within TMNP which will remain as such. These include the historic stone pine plantings of Groote Schuur Estate, Rhodes Memorial, the Glen, Constantia Nek (parking area) and the existing shaded picnic / braai sites at Newlands, Perdekloof and Wildschutsbrand. In addition, TMNP has undertaken a vigorous indigenous forest tree planting programme over the years with over 40 000 trees planted to augment existing Afromontane forest areas at Newlands, Orangekloof and Cecilia.
Since taking on the management of Tokai and Cecilia, SANParks is investing an additional R8 million over and above normal operational expenditure into alien clearing, footpath upgrades, tree planting, erosion control, braai site upgrades, shade route establishment, signage, minor access point upgrades etc.
TMNP is acutely aware of the devastated appearance after plantation stands of mature pine trees have been harvested, but can point to the highly successful rehabilitation of such plantation areas back to natural fynbos and indigenous forest, as can be witnessed at Newlands, Orangekloof, Silvermine, Vlakkenberg and rehabilitated areas of Tokai and Cecilia.
South African National Parks (SANParks) Cape Region Communications
Tel: 021 689 4441
Regional PR Officer: Cape Region, South African National Parks
Tel: 021 689 4441; Cell: 072 060 8188