Once again the 2018 festive season was marred by the overflow of picnickers who gathered on both sides of Odland Street. Traffic in both directions was brought to a virtual standstill, as revellers of all ages walked willy-nilly in the road.
In the December 20 issue of KP Herald, Yolandé Stander’s article drew attention to alcohol-related incidents that occurred in the same area over the previous long weekend:
“… three children were allegedly hit by cars; a 23-year-old was arrested for drunken driving after almost hitting a police officer and fleeing the scene; three children were abandoned when their parents left the site…”.
Not surprisingly, Bitou municipal spokesperson James Sijama said: “We are trying to get the police on board more, especially for the public drinking.”
As I live in close proximity to the picnic spot I can testify to the efforts made by the police. However, despite their attempts to bring a modicum of order to the situation, their blue light scarcely turns the corner before the mayhem starts all over again.
Moreover, the heavy drinking leads to urinating and defecating in the river despite the facility of public toilets. This disgusting activity is not only an affront to those who see it, but it is unsanitary, a notable health hazard, and a complete disregard for the environment.
Clearly, laws pertaining to the drinking of alcohol on our beaches should be extended to include the open ground off Odland.
Ironically, the vacant ground on lower Odland is NOT a picnic area at all. Indeed, it has been used for this purpose, as well as a collection point for recyclable rubbish.
But people wish to use it as an officially-designated picnic area, then the municipality needs to make it a safe, sanitary, and environmentally-friendly place - one that is an asset to the greater community of Plettenberg Bay.
Firstly, the edge of the river should be tidied up. I believe a walkway with a handrail and public lighting along the water’s edge would improve the area aesthetically.
Furthermore, the walkway could double up as the pavement, where joggers, strollers, and pedestrians could be kept safe from the traffic. Such a walkway could wind its way to and run along Central Beach, round the Lookout Rocks, and all the way to Lookout Beach.
Ideally, the walkway should have a gentle enough gradient to accommodate wheelchairs and prams. In this way, we would create a social - rather than an antisocial - space for residents and visitors alike.
In addition, I propose that a barrier/low fence should be erected to define the said ‘picnic area’, and to keep it completely separate from traffic. Presently, party-goers inadvertently spill off the curb-side onto the road, which is really dangerous.
I also suggest that shade-giving trees be left for the benefit of the picnickers, while the low to medium height trees, shrubs and foliage be removed to open up the space.
This, in turn, would clear the way for better, well-maintained public toilets and prevent people from destroying the river.
So, please, let’s work together for the benefit of everyone. Let’s stop the heavy drinking, noise pollution, danger to pedestrians and damage to the environment by transforming the existing vacant land off Odland to a park-like picnic area that we can all be proud to endorse as a beautiful asset to Plett.
Rodney Grosskopff, Plett