Lion’s Head is closing for nearly six weeks for some necessary maintenance and updates
One of Cape Town’s most famous hiking trails is that of Lion’s Head. Known for its distinctive slope found alongside Table Mountain, the proud lion overlooks the city of Cape Town on one side and the Atlantic coastline on the other. Trailing up the mountain offers you views of the Cape Peninsula and Robben Island and the hike to the top can be steep but the incredible views of the beautiful city make the trek well worth it.
However, to keep the beauty of what this hiking experience offers alive, necessary maintenance and a need to relook at public safety has become apparent. We met with Blake, the founder of Love Our Trails, to see why SANParks has decided to close Lion’s Head to the public from 7th January 2019 to 15th February 2019.
Why is Closing the Trail Necessary?
During its Peak Season in December, the trail is too overpopulated for the current infrastructure in place. Public safety has, therefore, become a major concern. This means that maintenance needs to be done on the trail and the infrastructure to hold the number of people hiking the trails while ensuring it is still fun for everyone to enjoy. It is a sad task to close Lion’s Head because of it being such a massive tourist attraction but this can be seen as an amazing opportunity for the city to create new and more accessible trails in and around Cape Town.
The Negative Effects of Misusing the Trail
A part from the need to relook at the existing infrastructure, due to the high number of foot traffic, and many visitors choosing to create their own routes up the mountain, we have found evidence of erosion and major vegetation destruction, this has the potential to ruin the mountain and ruin the experience for anyone who wishes to take part in the hike. The beauty of this trail is in the diversity of the vegetation and wildlife it has to offer. With so many people hiking the trail, it’s starting to negatively impact the vegetation, and according to Blake, “the movement and life cycle of bees and other wildlife who reside on the mountain are being heavily affected too”. It’s so important to highlight the fact that everyone must stick to the trails and minimise foot traffic on other areas of the mountain. Human nature often means we want shortcuts and wish to take the easy way out but, we need to remember we are merely visitors on this mountain thus it deserves our respect.
Not only is the closing of Lions Head giving SANParks the time they need to rehabilitate and restore the existing trail, and close off trails made by the public, but it is giving them the chance to work on congested areas where ladders and better, more effective infrastructure are needed to make the flow of traffic faster. This time will also be utilised to make sure the trail is accessible for an emergency team should an emergency occur. Both the security of the natural environment and the safety of the trail users are being taken into consideration.
What Love Our Trails is Doing to Support the SANParks Initiative:
“Our goal is to encourage all trail users to follow the basic steps of caring for our environment while working with landowners and event organisers to ensure our trails are well maintained, safe and sustainable”.
SANParks is so busy fixing problems on the mountain caused by trail abuse that they don’t have time to do other work on the trail like protecting the mountain against crime and protecting the environment and ecosystem so that future generations can enjoy this incredible trail.
A good trail is designed to protect the environment while giving trail users access to the beauty nature has to offer. A well-designed trail has multiple uses, such as being able to accommodate trail users, emergency vehicles and allows users to interact with nature, just to name a few, but we need to understand the flow of water, the fauna and flora etc. and ensure we are not affecting the migration and movement of wildlife. We need to allow wildlife to be wildlife and enjoy it without disturbing it.
As part of the initiative to improve the overall quality of Lion’s Head, SANParks will be putting up new signage with proper direction for hikers and to guide mountain bikers on mountain bike friendly trails. This signage will also indicate appropriate behaviour on the trail, including the banning of drones, music, littering and graffiti.
Reasons for these restrictions:
Drones are prohibited due to a number of reasons, the first being that they are a safety risk for emergency helicopters. Last year, a drone flew into the blade of a helicopter during a rescue up Lions Head which cost a lot of money in damages and put many lives in danger. Secondly, drones offer a problem of privacy invasion and disturbance which is unfair to others using the trail and unfair to the wildlife residing on the mountain. Lastly, If a drone crashes or gets lost the battery becomes a fire hazard.
Music is not allowed because it is considered sound pollution, everyone walking the trail has the right to walk in silence and enjoy the sounds of nature. Loud music also negatively affects our biodiversity.
Littering of any kind is unacceptable on the trail. We are all aware that plastic is bad for the environment but what we may not be aware of, is that depending on vegetation, certain food waste (banana peels or orange peels) can be high in acids and could affect/damage that vegetation. It also takes at least two months for some food waste to decompose causing visual pollution.
Graffiti is a criminal offence! We go into nature to view nature in its purest form, not scribbled with names of people’s loved ones. Graffiti is an ugly addition to something so inherently beautiful.
How can you help Lions Head and other trails around South Africa?
We all need to adopt these rules and lead by example by encouraging people to do the same. Go out and explore the trails but respect the landowner’s efforts by staying on the assigned trails and being respectful of the beauty that surrounds you and definitely report things that go against the rules of the trail.
Final Tips from Love our Trails :
- Leave nothing but footprints
- Take nothing but pictures
- Stay on the trail
- Mother our trails
- Trail watch
Love Our Trails and SANparks are keeping a close eye on organisations and National Parks from around the world to see what they’re doing on their trails to support protection so they can understand what is working and how they can adapt it to our local trails.
We want to say a big thanks to everyone involved in the upkeep and maintenance of Lion’s Head especially to SANParks and Love Our Trails for their continuous hard work. For information on any trail clean ups around Cape Town check out Love Our Trails and for further information on the closing of Lion’s Head visit SANParks webpage.