To All Supporters of the Kloof Conservancy’s 3 Falls Trail Run,
It is with great regret that we have to advise that the Kloof Conservancy is not currently involved in supporting the Krantzkloof Nature Reserve and consequently, as thing stand, we will not be organizing the 3 Falls Trail Run.
This has come about as a result of policy differences between the Kloof Conservancy and the Reserve Management. There are a number of issues which cover both biodiversity protection and community access to the reserve that we have raised with the Reserve management, but our concerns have fallen on deaf ears.
We have been deeply concerned about the manner in which access to the reserve has been severely restricted without any consultation whatsoever. On the biodiversity issue we are also concerned, for example, about the negative impact of bracken fern on the grasslands and again these concerns have been glibly dismissed. More recently the condition of paths and entrances have become concerns but have not been discussed with management as there is no line of communication and our inputs are no longer welcome.
It is our view that modern conservation practices require the intimate involvement of the communities that surround a nature reserve. Nature reserves should be havens for biodiversity but should also be, where practical and sensible, of beneficial use to the communities that surround them. Nature reserves, particularly those in highly urbanised environments cannot survive in a vacuum or “isolated bubble”. The simple principle behind this is that if the communities are involved and benefit from a reserve then they are more likely to treasure and protect the reserve.
We believe that this is what was being achieved in Krantzkloof Nature Reserve. Over many years the Kloof community through the Kloof Conservancy (and others) and with the very proactive and encouraging attitude of previous reserve managers, has been actively involved in raising funds and supporting the reserve. Initially these funds were allocated to Invasive Alien Plant clearing and more recently to significant improvements to trails, entrances, parking, signage, information displays, development of an excellent map and the significant upgrade of the Krantzkloof Conference Centre which in turn became an important source of income for improvements to the reserve. The value of this over the past eight years (including significant volunteer time) has on average exceeded R250 000 per annum. This support and proactive involvement resulted in the community having an enormous love and affinity for the reserve. This was visibly demonstrated by the run-away success of the Kloof Conservancy 3 Falls Trail Run which became one of the “must-do” events on any trail runner’s calendar and was even featured in a book; “Mud, sweat and gears – South Africa’s toughest and most scenic endurance sporting events”. Not only did trail runners and visitors enjoy the stunning scenery and open spaces but, through the many e-mails, posts etc. they also learnt about the biodiversity of the reserve and many learnt to value this.
The policy changes and enforcement started with the closure of the main view site on Bridle Road (which denied access by the public to the most stunning view site in Durban) and have continued with the closure, making extensive use of barbed wire, of the Nkutu entrance (other than at weekends) and the Uve Road entrance. In addition, warning signs now threaten criminal sanction on any visitor daring to enter the reserve other than from either Kloof Falls entrance or Nkutu (weekends only).
These changes have made it next to impossible for the average resident of Kloof and surrounds to enjoy the reserve as they have done for the past seventy years.
A recent petition organized by a private individual garnered 2000 signatures, was submitted to Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (EKZNW) and has basically been ignored.
With specific regard to the 3 Falls Trail Run, a very successful process was used for the eight years that the event was run. Funds were raised and held by the Conservancy and then used in projects which were aimed at enhancing the visitor experience. In 2019 we were asked to allocate the funds raised to build an office for the reserve manager. We indicated we were not in favour of that, and the funds were instead used for improvements to the parking area at Kloof Falls and beautification of the entrances at Kloof Falls, Nkutu and the Krantzkloof Conference Centre. The Kloof Conservancy was awarded the “Verge of the Year Award” by the municipality for those efforts.
There has never been any dispute over the fact that every cent (and more) of the income from 3 Falls Trail Run and the Krantzkloof Conference Centre has been, very transparently, ploughed back into the reserve. Despite this we have been told that if we were to organise the 3 Falls Trail Run again, we would have to deposit any income into an EKZNW account in Pietermaritzburg. In addition, the management lease on the Krantzkloof Conference Centre was not renewed and there has never even been the curtesy of an explanation. We find this position unacceptable and quite offensive given that we are a registered non-profit organisation which has been totally transparent and totally supportive of the reserve.
We are fully aware that the reserve has become incredibly popular (as have all open spaces post Covid lockdowns) and that this has resulted in some severe strains on the reserve. The “porous” nature of the reserve has resulted in many visitors entering without paying. The levels of noise and litter have increased alarmingly. We are also aware of some of the financial difficulties that EKZNW is facing.
We also understand that some of the reserve neighbours may well be fed-up particularly with the noise issue and some may welcome restrictions to access.
It is our view that these are management issues that need to be managed. Shutting down the reserve is a de facto abdication of management responsibility. It is our view that these “new visitors” to the reserve should be welcomed with open arms and engaged in discussion so that in time they become ambassadors for nature. What we are instead seeing is that the Reserve Management spends time “hunting down” and confronting nature lovers who enter at “illegal” points. This action is done with alacrity and aims to turn these nature lovers into criminals. A recent message from a trail runner sums things up: The runner and his teenage daughter decided to see if they could enter, as they had done for many years, at Uve Road as they live close by. On seeing the barbed wire and notices threatening criminal sanctions the teenager commented “I am scared and sad”. This is what things have come down to under the current authoritarian and insensitive approach being applied by the Reserve Management.
There are a number of potential solutions to the issues facing the reserve. For example:
- The use of technology such as Zapper (or similar) to encourage payment
- The use of trained “environmental ambassadors” to monitor entry points
- Actively encouraging (as we have repeatedly done) the acquisition of EKZNW’s excellent Rhino Card
- The use of “environmental ambassadors” to meet and greet visitors and to engage with them on the value of nature, the importance of silence and the issue of litter.
Environmental ambassadors could also be used to patrol the trails and engage with rowdy and littering visitors.
The Kloof Conservancy has a track record of innovative fund-raising initiatives that could assist in finding solutions.
These are just some very simple and practical solutions that could be discussed and implemented if there was a willingness to engage in discussions. Sadly, we have been advised by the Reserve Management that the reserve is being managed in line with the Protected Areas Act and there is no obligation to consult and discuss anything with the community. We find such a position untenable. To hide behind the Protected Areas Act and apply it in such an inflexible manner (bear in mind that this has not been strictly applied for the past seventy years) flies in the face of modern conservation practices. It is a slap in the face to the community and is bad for conservation in the long term.
The actions of the Reserve Management have resulted in a total destruction of the goodwill and the relationship with the majority of the community that surrounds the reserve. Two thousand signatures on the petition attest to that.
Under these circumstances it is very difficult to find a way forward. We do not see any light at the end of the dark tunnel whilst the current management is in place.
We want to assure you that we have tried to engage but have been rebuffed. We approached line management and were basically told that the issues were “personal differences”, and we should just move on. We have tried to raise the issues with EKZNW Head Office and have not even had the courtesy of an acknowledgment of our concerns.
We wish to sincerely apologise to all those that have supported us over many years in assisting to help make Krantzkloof Nature Reserve an enjoyable experience where people could enjoy the beautiful open spaces and at the same time appreciate the value of nature. This includes all the volunteers who gave selflessly to assist, our friends at Riverside Trail, the radio operators at Hamnet KZN, our numerous sponsors, the SANParks Honorary Rangers and those Krantzkloof Honorary Officers that have stood by us. It also includes all the trail runners who have participated, many of you became our friends as you shared your experiences on the tough trails! We apologise to all of you as we have effectively failed to represent you and the community and ensure that you are able to enjoy and support the reserve as you have done over so many years.
We are considering what other options may be available to us but do urge individual residents, trail runners and supporters to raise their concerns directly with EKZNW or find other alternatives to make their voices heard.