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THE campaign to restore Uvongo beach’s Blue Flag status is forging ahead, but the Uvongo Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association members who are spearheading it are accusing Ray Nkonyeni Municipality of dragging its heels.
At a public meeting in February last year, the association explained that the beach had lost its Blue Flag 10 years ago. Regaining this prestigious, internationally recognised award was not going to be easy as there were 37 requirements a beach needed to fulfil in order to earn a prized Blue Flag.
According to Henry Visser, who gave an overview of the beach problems, few of these requirements were being met. However, he and ward councillor George Henderson said the biggest hurdles were the ongoing water quality issues regarding Uvongo lagoon.
There are no plans to repair the fishing pier during the next financial year, although it is in poor repair.
This week Mr Visser contacted the Herald to complain that the municipality was not keeping its promises regarding the upgrading of the beach to meet the Blue Flag standards. He was, however, confident that the serious water quality issues could be resolved.
He said ablution blocks were hardly functional, that the disabled people’s toilet was used as a storeroom and that buildings generally needed maintenance.
There were health, safety and litter issues. Stairways needed handrails, paving was uneven in places and some steps were broken. Nothing was being done to stop people from jumping off the cliffs.
Security issues, including petty theft from beachgoers, were also a concern, Mr Visser claimed the men’s toilet was missing a security gate and that a ceiling was broken, allowing vagrants to access the toilet block to sleep there at night.
The paddling pool gate was not locked either, allowing vagrants to misuse this facility. A gate at the top of the stairs leading from the beach to Collins Street, should be repaired and locked at night to increase security.
The lifesavers’ tower seems to be undergoing an upgrade.
The South Coast Herald had a look at the beach this week and it appeared that some work was being done regarding the ablution block.
There were a few cistern lids missing in the men’s toilets and and a couple of the toilet bowls were out of commission on the women’s side. The ceiling did not appear damaged and the security gate had been replaced.
The toilet for disabled people was no longer serving as a storeroom but it and the rest of the ablution facilities would benefit from a bit of maintenance and a minor upgrade.
A short stairway from the walkway to the beach next to the lifeguard building lacked a handrail, but it should perhaps be closed off as the sand beneath it has been washed away, making access to the beach difficult. Other access to the beach was more than adequate.
The uneven bricks on the walkway from the car park could trip up the unwary but did not appear to be too dangerous.
The bottom of the stairs leading from Collins Road would benefit from a handrail and a few damaged steps could be replaced. It was good to see the litter that Mr Visser had complained about seemed to have been removed.
This stairway to nowhere lacks handrails but it leads to a section of washed away beach and could easily be closed off. There would still be more than adequate beach access.
Perhaps the biggest concern was the poor state of repair of the Uvongo fishing pier. Otherwise, small repairs and improvements, plus some cosmetic changes, rather than a major upgrade, would probably be needed to meet most Blue Flag standards.
Municipal spokesman Simon April said the facilities maintenance section was aware of the issues raised. However, these would only be dealt with gradually because of budget constraints. The repairing of the fishing pier, a capital project, was not on the municipal agenda.
Uvongo fell within the same cluster as the Margate Olympic swimming pool, the repair of which had been prioritised ahead of the pier for the coming financial year.
When asked to comment on the possibility of Uvongo and also perhaps St Michael’s beaches earning Blue Flags, Mr April said water quality criteria were stringent.
Judging by water samples taken on both beaches, neither would currently make the grade. This problem was beyond the Ray Nkonyeni Municipality’s control.
The lower section of the stairway from Collins Street would benefit from repair work and a handrail.
Mr April also pointed out that it was impossible for all 21 Ray Nkonyeni beaches to have Blue Flag status as Blue Flag beaches were very expensive to maintain.