Environment News

Community reclaiming White River Nature Reserve

Frieda Paton

Earlier this year a group of enthusiastic residents got together to revitalise the White River Nature Reserve (WRNR). They have exciting long-term plans to turn it into a safe space – not only for residents to relax surrounded by nature almost in the heart of town but also as a must-see tourist attraction in the Lowveld area.

The 21.4-hectare property lies between the suburb of Parkville and the White River Rugby Club.  It is a protected wetland and nature reserve which was declared as a national park in the Nature Conservation Ordinance many years ago. The White River, after which the town is named, runs through the Reserve where it creates a tributary that feeds into the Primkop Dam.

Over the years the WRNR has become degraded and polluted by external sources. It is being used as a shortcut, snares have been found, and there is an overgrowth of invasive plant species.  This threatens not only to the Reserve itself but also to the town’s future water supply.

The reserve is home to many indigenous plant species, including the endemic Aloe Simii which has been classified as critically endangered.  There are a large number of bird species and small animals.  Three types of mongoose have already been spotted, and also serval cats, a spotted genet, porcupines and small buck.

The WRNR committee is currently in the process of registering as a non-profit organisation and getting other legal requirements into place. Working for Water is already assisting with rehabilitation and Working on Fire with fire breaks.

Some of the future plans include fencing the area, fixing an existing bird hide, mapping out running and hiking trails and creating picnic spots. A fund-raising activity is held every month at the Bagdad Farmers Market.

According to Tiffany Briggs, Chairperson of the WRNR Executive Committee, they are receiving tremendous support from the community – not only in terms of funds but also services. “People should, however, realise that this is a huge job, not something that can happen overnight,” she explained.  Should you have any questions or want to offer support, you can contact Briggs on 082 530 2428 or send an e-mail to tiffany@mfafa.co.za.

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