Insightful talk on Kwelera botanical garden

By Barbara Hollands

Plans to develop 10ha of Kwelera farmland into a landscaped garden, complete with a Xhosa culture medicinal garden, a multipurpose hall for conservation education and functions, a concert and wedding area and an indigenous nursery will be presented at an East London Museum talk this evening.

PLANS BLOOMING: Kwelera National Botanical Garden curator Leanne Kessler will present a talk at the East London Museum this evening about the proposed developments of the park

The proposed garden, which was acquired in March 2016, is to become part of the 160ha Kwelera National Botanical Garden which was declared in July 2014 by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (Sanbi) and is co-managed by the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency (ECPTA).

It is the first of its kind in the province.

“The garden will be a great biodiversity and recreational conservation garden for the Eastern Cape,” said curator Leanne Kessler, whose 7.30pm talk today will focus on the proposed developments of the 10ha part of the garden where the bulk of the infrastructure will be built.

She said the plan for the 10ha garden would include themed gardens with plantings, including cycads and succulents, a natural wetland garden, grassland and wildflowers, useful isiXhosa plants, an interactive and educational children’s garden, a wedding garden, a concert lawn, a living wall and spekboom avenue.

The entire site would be landscaped and include a tea garden, parking, a nursery and a workshop, as well as curator residences.

“Local themes representative of East London and Kwelera – such as shipwrecks, early inhabitants, geology, bio-geography and wildlife – should all be considered and reflected in the garden design aspects one way or the other.”

Kessler, a horticulturist who worked for Sanbi at the Free State and Pretoria National Botanical Gardens before moving to Kwelera, said the “proposed dates” for the completion of the landscaped portion of the garden will be 2021 or 2022, when it will be opened to the public.

“The Kwelera National Botanical Garden is unique because it is the only garden which has been twice gazetted – first as a nature reserve under the National Environmental Management Protected Areas Act (NEMPAA) and then also as a national botanical garden.”

Also in the pipeline is the development of minor infrastructure at the Kwelera River Mouth node of the main botanical garden.

“Depending on the results of the EIA, the proposal is that the derelict old skiboat clubhouse will be replaced with a single-storey ablution block and the braai spots along the beach be centralised into a braai area.”

A dolphin-viewing platform may also be added and the ring road regravelled at the popular seaside picnic area.

Benches, signage and hiking trails through the forest and coastal grasslands are also part of the proposed plan, as is some form of access control.

Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) are about to begin, for which a public participation process meeting is scheduled for February 6.

Both the EIA and the landscape plan should be completed by the middle of this year.

“Once we have an outcome we can begin developing,” she said.

lProviding information about these and other plans for the Kwelera National Botanical Garden, Kessler will give an hour-long talk at the Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer Hall at the East London Museum tonight at 7.30pm. — barbarah@dispatch.co.za

-DispatchLIVE

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