We are extremely busy down on the West Coast. We started 7 years ago and have now grown into a close, dedicated group of Park lovers (stop that! You know EXACTLY what I mean!) totalling 31 as at last count.
You specifically asked not to report on Park duties, so I won't. Our Region focusses mainly on fundraising for Park Projects. Our Park really battles with finances, as we are so out in the sticks, we do not have the Big Five, and the local community can only provide so much support, so we have spread our wings a little wider, and now attract a lot of overseas funding (sponsorships), as well as donations from the wider SA business and private communities. Our PR department is top drawer and is really producing the goods for us and the Park, as you will see below.
Apart from the efforts in garnering sponsorships, we also have four annual fundraising activities as follows:
1) We run a little shop/kiosk/bookstore/info centre outside Postberg dusing the flower season each year, bringing in much-needed funds for our smaller Projects and providing a valuable service to the members of the local and overseas public who visit us, in the form of answering their many and varied questions. In fact, this is one of the reasons why Bushwhacker started his campfire chats - in an effort to discuss some of the conservation issues with other HRs, thereby arming us with answers instead of a mouth full of teeth! This kiosk is very popular, and brings in some serious funding if the flower season is a good one.
2) We host the annual Marathon through the WCNP each year, and close the gates to vehicles for the morning. This is becoming an increasingly popular event, and very lucrative, too.
3) Around the same time (December holidays) as 2) above, we also host our annual Cycle Race, also through the closed Park. This is also an excellent fundraiser and very popular with the cyclists, from the Italian Classic riders, the full race, the short race and the fun ride.
4) In March we hold our annual Birding Day/Weekend for 50 first-booked, first-accommodated birders. As stated elsewhere in these forums, this is also now established as a huge success and is bolstered by impressively knowledgeable presenters on birding subjects outside the actual competition hours. We are well-sponsored for this event in terms of prizes, goodie bags, lucky draw prizes and items for auction, making the whole weekend's takings our profit (except for the costs of the gala dinner on the Saturday night).
With the funding raised and sponsorships gathered, we are in the fortunate position to be proud of providing (and having provided) the following support to the West Coast National Park as follows:
A new rubber dinghy and motor for anti-poaching patrols on the lagoon, which has now been in operation for over a year, bringing many poachers and other transgressors to book so far.
A 20-seater Mercedes bus (the first of two needed) for transporting our 10,000pa disadvantaged schoolchildren around the Park while they attend our Park's courses - till now we have been ferrying them around in our private cars, which is clearly highly unsuitable in terms of insurance, personal fuel costs, wear and tear on our vehicles, and the need to work in relays to get everyone out to the remote parts before the session can commence. The majority of the R370k raised came from overseas foundations.
A herd of Grey Rhebok (delivery imminent) for the Park - mostly overseas funding used here.
A new Info Centre is our new Project for this year and is well underway.
We are currently also creating copies of the Fagile Harmony tape in the form of new tapes and DVD's for sale in the Park. This publication, although 20 years or so old, is still wonderfully relevant today and deserves to be republished for the benefit of those visitors who would like a copy. At the same time, one of our technically-advantaged PC boffins is producing a pictorial and movie DVD with music and explanatory narratives on the highlights of our Park - also for resale. This successfully marries a public need with a future source of income, thereby creating a self-sustaining initiative for the Park.
Some within our ranks are retired and not-so-retired teachers. These dedicated natualists have dived in alongside the WC SANParks Socio-ecologists and now assist with the mammoth task of hosting between 6,000 and 10,000 disadvantaged schoolchildren per year in our Park. These wonderful members give freely of their time to present lectures and to take the kids out into the field and onto the rocks and beaches to show them what they were taught in the eco-education hall. The kids stay over in our renovated stables and really leave with a new outlook toward nature. It is for this effort that the buses mentioned above are needed. These same members are rapidly becoming sought-after accredited HR course leaders in our cluster.
We have recently been tasked to recce the Park for a suitable set of mountain bike trails, as this is clearly a big ticket item amongst mountain bike afficionados, and is also set to become a big attraction to such folk. (Sometimes it is good not to have the Big Five!)
Many smaller items, like binoculars, fridges, freezers, digital projectors, video machines, microwaves, scanner/copier/fax/answering machines, new flower beds, new walls, renovation of old buildings, alien vegetation removal, new mag lights, and a host of other stuff has also been delivered through our efforts.
Almost everything comes from almost nothing.
Henri Frederic Amiel (1821-1881)
Philosopher and writer