South African National Parks (SANParks) has extended their free access to state parks during SA National Parks week to include the weekend after complaints from locals that they were unable to attend during the week.
This year’s 14th annual parks week takes place from Sunday 8 to Sunday 15 September 2019.
SANParks regional spokeswoman Fayroush Ludick said the annual event gives all South African citizens the opportunity to visit one of the country’s 21 parks for free.
Arrive early to avoid disappointment
Ludick said in the south of the country, known as the Frontier Region of SANParks, this applies to Addo Elephant Park (outside Port Elizabeth), Camdeboo Park (on the borders of Graaff-Reinet), Garden Route Park (with its Tsitsikamma, Knysna, and Wilderness sections), Karoo National Park (outside Beaufort West), and Mountain Zebra National Park (near Cradock).
Ludick said due to the popularity of Addo Elephant Park and its proximity to Port Elizabeth, gate quotas of 700 people per day per gate over weekends will apply. Ludick advised that visitors get there early to avoid disappointment.
She said each year SANParks aimed to increase the number of citizens who were granted free access to parks during this time.
Critical role of national parks
Since the programme started in 2006, a total of 438 361 South Africans had been afforded the opportunity to enter parks.
“It’s important for South Africans to visit and know the importance of national parks,” said SANParks chief executive officer Fundisile Mketeni.
“They act as spaces to practice sustainable conservation, as spaces that preserve and celebrate our culture and heritage, and we now see national parks playing the critical role of empowering communities living adjacent to parks through job creation and we continue to explore ways of creating business opportunities particularly for small business owners.”
Important to increase the relevance of parks
Mketeni highlighted the growing need for national parks to be relevant, particularly to young people and communities living adjacent to parks.
“Through our socio-economic transformation programmes and our expanded public works programme, we work closely with communities living adjacent to national parks with the aim of strengthening our relationships with them, in order to be more inclusive so we can tackle issues of wildlife crime with their help, afford them more access to parks for cultural use, inform young people about the different career options that parks have to offer and create job opportunities,” he said.
“SANParks hopes to strengthen and enable those communities to reap the benefits of the national parks.”
– African News Agency (ANA), Editing by Emsie Ferreira
(Source: The South African)