13 JUNE 2017 | STORY KEVIN WINTER. PHOTOS GAVIN LAWSON.

Over 80 paddlers joined the Peninsula Paddle last Sunday to celebrate the recent rainfall and refreshment that this brought to the dire state of Cape Town’s waterways.

Greg Bertish, the celebrity guest at the Peninsula Paddle this year, was joined by 30 youngsters from the Steenberg and Grassy Park communities, which lie adjacent to the paddle route.
Greg Bertish, the celebrity guest at the Peninsula Paddle this year, was joined by 30 youngsters from the Steenberg and
Grassy Park communities, which lie adjacent to the paddle route.

The Peninsula Paddle is a gruelling journey from Muizenberg to Milnerton that requires participants to paddle and drag their kayaks through canals, rivers and vleis over a distance of about 15 kilometres. Certain sections are not possible to traverse.

Along the way the paddlers get a close-up view of the city’s waterways following months of accumulated litter, aquatic weeds and contaminated water that regularly flows into the canals and lakes.

The paddle is a long standing initiative of community-based conservation organisations, with the leading role being played by UCT’s Future Water Institute and the Friends of the Liesbeek.

Greg Bertish was the celebrity guest at the event this year. He is an inspiring adventurer and fundraiser for the Children’s Hospital Trust. He paddled and sailed his dinghy through the waterways – a sign of his personal grit and determination.

The paddlers were also joined by 30 youngsters from the Steenberg and Grassy Park communities, which lie adjacent to the paddle route. Every one of these participants had to prove their ability on the water by attending a series of practice outings held at Zandvlei, which were organised by the City’s Sports and Recreation Development Department. The programme encourages the youth to take an interest in waterways and enjoy the fun of paddling these river corridors.

Some of the hardy paddlers pose at the final leg of the Peninsula Paddle journey at Milnerton along with
Greg Bertish and his Little Optimist craft.

A critical message

The Peninsula Paddle raises a critical message: “The health of the city is seen in its waterways.”

The blue and green waterways are the veins of the city that connect well-established suburbs to some of the poorest parts of the city. We all share the waterways. Whatever gets dumped into storm-water drains and is allowed to flow into the waterways will eventually find its way to the sea.

The recent rains flushed tons of trash, plastics and other materials out to sea. Once solid waste gets into the water, it is almost impossible to get it out. The challenge of addressing the pollution of Cape Town’s waterways and beaches is overwhelming the City’s resources. Regular cleaning and maintenance is necessary, but this is unsustainable in the long term.

The heart of the challenge is about enabling citizens to enjoy and value these waterways – this is the long term vision of the Peninsula Paddle.