A project to secure, preserve and protect Bill Stewart Nature Reserve is on the cards.
Nature Reserve Clean-Ups SA, the brainchild of Bedfordview resident, Chyrice Ellis, plans to take the Bill Stewart clean-up initiatives to the next level.
Ellis said the next step as the numerous clean-ups at the reserves gained traction was for the entire area to be rehabilitated and secured.
“We had several schools and community members get involved in our regular clean-ups at the reserve and I felt it was time to move on and completely rehabilitate the area.”
Ellis said when she moved to Bedfordview around two and a half years ago she took a walk up Florence Avenue and found the reserve.
Also read: Community reclaims reserve
“The first thing I noticed was how filthy it was. When I reached the top, I remember thinking that if I could spend 20 minutes a day in the reserve it would be good for my soul.”
It was after her first walk that Ellis decided to launch clean-up initiatives in the reserve.
“But even with regular clean-ups, it is not sustainable.”
Ellis realised more needed to be done in the reserve. She started looking at other factors including safety, new fencing and new paths.
“Once rehabilitated, Bill Stewart Nature Reserve will be a place people can use recreationally while knowing they are safe.”
“I want people to have access to the reserve, even if it’s 20 minutes or half an hour. I want it to be a place where they can disconnect from their lives,” she said.
Ellis explained the energy in Johannesburg was heavy for her and taking a walk in nature was a form of self-care.
The official rehabilitation strategy will be launched in early September and will delve into more details for the phases of rehabilitation.
“For now the rehabilitation includes fixing the fencing and getting the reserve locked up during non-operational hours.
She added that there were increased reports of criminal activity within the reserve including the recovery of weapons.
“The rehabilitation process will be divided into different projects and one of those will be to remove those living in the reserve.
“I want to do this in the most humane way possible. I know if I want this to be a success, I cannot have the vagrants living in the reserve so I’m working to find them an alternative solution at a shelter,” Ellis said.
“I would then like to get a conservationist involved to help mark out where all the alien invasive plants are so that we can remove them,” Ellis said.
She then wants to cut paths through the reserve that community members could use.
Ellis added that while the reserve was not big, the task of rehabilitation has to be divided into various phases.
While she does receive help from a core team, Ellis hopes to establish a committee soon for the project while looking to the longer term. The project has the potential to create permanent employment opportunities.
“I have received great help from Nick Phelps from Human Bean Coffee Company, Maxine Tromp from Moon Graphics and Kingston Realty’s Michael Drennan and Brendan Winkler.
“Weststar Manufacturing has also helped as and when they could.
“This is uncharted waters for me and naturally there will be hiccups. I am expecting a few teething problems.
“It is for this reason that I am open to ideas from residents and businesses to make the project a success,” Ellis said.
She hopes that the rehabilitation of Bill Stewart Nature Reserve would become a template that could be used to preserve and protect other natural areas in Gauteng.
More information can be found on Nature Reserve Clean-Ups SA on Instagram or by calling Chyrice on 079 505 7073.