Lion’s Head’s safety comes under fire on social media, SANParks responds

lions head christopher griner flickr cc by

The darling of Cape Town’s skyline Lion’s Head recently reopened to the public after a lengthy rehabilitation period.

Initially, this six-week rest period beginning November 2018 was to address the mountain’s condition and safety infrastructure in place. This period was lengthened after a wildfire swept across the peak in January causing additional damage.

But on 1 March, the trail was reopened to the public.

“The conservation team have also commenced vegetation rehabilitation in a number of places and the Park requests visitors to assist the team with this process by not stepping off the pathway for any reason,” Table Mountain National Park wrote in the opening announcement.

“We would like to remind visitors that the footpath on the north facing slope from the Kramat, leading up to the spiral trail, will remain closed for further rehabilitation as a result of the fire event in February 2019.”

The main spiral trail leading up to the summit however, is free to use. But some who used the mountain trail this weekend are currently questioning the Lion’s Head’s safety.

“We are putting a warning out to avoid using the Lion’s Head trail until experts declare it safe again,” wrote Table Mountain Watch, an organisation concerned with safety within Cape Town’s wilderness areas, on a Facebook post spotted by CapeTownETC.

The post also included snaps of the repairs done on the ladders, pegs, and chains leading up to the summit of the 669m peak.

Users are angered by their appearance and apparent “dangerous repairs”.

“I certainly hope TMP haven’t paid these contractors? You close the trail in peak season and then hire incompetents to do these dangerous repairs? Shame on you,” wrote one user on Facebook.

“This looks like “i have a buddy that can weld,” wrote another.

“Yoh world renowned hiking trail. Possibly the worst weld I’ve ever seen,” penned another user.

In total, Table Mountain Watch’s post accrued more than 280 comments with close to 3500 shares.

SANParks responds to hikers’ ‘disappointment’

The furor online has seemingly prompted a response from officials.

On Monday 4 March, SANParks issued a statement in response to the photographs and what it called “concerns from our visitors”.

“SANParks echoes these sentiments and we understand the disappointment our hikers may feel. The tender that was awarded for infrastructure maintenance was done in a fair, open and equitable manner whilst complying with all Supply Chain Management guidelines,” it writes.

“The contractor that was awarded the tender met the requirements and commenced work when the trail was closed. Regrettably, quality control was an on-going challenge and our conservation team inspected work on a daily basis. Corrective measures that needed to be put in place were communicated to the contractor as these issues arose.”

It suggested that the “balance” of the work was satisfactory, which meant the trail could be reopened. However, the affected area has been cordoned off.

“We have encouraged hikers to make use of the existing staples and chains or the trail segment that circumvents the cordoned off infrastructure. Visitors are still able to reach the summit through the spiral trail that completely excludes the staples and chains,” it added.

SANParks noted that it will “take the necessary steps to rectify this situation”.

“We apologise for the inconvenient caused,” SANParks concluded.

SANParks or Table Mountain National Parks has failed to provide a timeline for the reopening of the remaining Lion’s Head trails.

Feature image: Christopher Griner via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Andy Walker, former editor


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