Stanford is getting a new green space. To be true, it’s not new at all and used to be a valuable community recreation area. However, a section of the Mill Stream below the borrow pit, which the Stanford community calls the Willem Appel ‘dam’ (although it was never engineered or registered as one) has been thickly overgrown with alien invasive plants and trees for many years.

Aidan Butler and Blessings Yohene clearing alien vegetation along the Mill Stream in Stanford. PHOTO: Sarah Taylor

As a result of committed and ongoing community, conservation and municipal action, and as part of a broader regeneration plan for the rural village, the clearing of alien invasive plants (AIPs) began last week in the 1.2ha block below the ‘dam’ wall and Kiewietz Street.

The alien- and reed-clearing project is a result of efforts by members of the Stanford Conservation Trust, supported by Sheraine van Wyk of Whale Coast Conservation (WCC) in conjunction with the Overstrand Municipality. This small grant project was made possible through funding from the Table Mountain Fund, administered by Whale Coast Conservation (WCC).

The stream, which is a tributary to the Klein River, has become choked with reeds, elders, Australian Bush Cherries (Syzygium), syringas, poplars and Brazilia peppers. Battling to survive alongside these thirsty foreign plants are indigenous wild olive trees, some majestically mature in sizes of up to five metres tall.

Armed with chainsaws and brush-cutters, Aidan Butler of Aidan’s Nursery and Garden Service, who was contracted by the Stanford Conservation Trust’s maintenance team, with funding from WCC, to clear the block, and his employee Blessings Yohene are indeed a blessing to the area. Both locals to Stanford, Aidan and Blessings will be assisted with the removal of the cleared alien vegetation by the municipality.

The area has been thickly overgrown with alien invasive plants and trees for many years. PHOTO: Sarah Taylor

Bea Whittaker of the Stanford Conservancy says the clean-up is part of a Stanford renewal project to “bring our community together, make the town safer, more pedestrian- and visitor- friendly, and to protect the environment. We’re doing this for the people but also the frogs.”

Sheraine is also passionate about the area and her PhD hones in on the process of finding a ‘unified community voice’, scripted in the Mill Stream Concept Document and Plan in the context of the river rehabilitation project.

It all started after she facilitated the monitoring of the frog populations, especially the endemic endangered Western Leopard Toad, and finding their numbers dropping dramatically because of the poor ecological condition of the Mill Stream. Water test results show that the system is heavily impacted by the inflow of pollution from stormwater drains and agricultural and industrial run-off, which enriches the system and causes the algal blooms in the borrow pit and excessive reed growth along three quarters of the stream.

“Alien invasive plants suck up huge amounts of water. Excessive water extraction from the Klein River is one of the main reasons why it becomes eutrophic in the drier months, with algae blooms and, at times, dead fish,” says Sheraine.

Sheraine van Wyk of Whale Coast Conservation (in the middle) oversees the landscaping of the grassed area on the southern bank of the Mill Street, in collaboration with the Stanford Conservation Trust and Overstrand Municipality. PHOTO: Lauren Rainbird

“The Mill Stream is a micro version of the Klein River and it contributes to and compounds the existing problems in the Klein. That is why this small grant project is important. It’s a little step towards improving the condition of the Mill Stream as well as the Klein. With the replanting of a variety of indigenous wetland plants here, in addition to the clearing and landscaping of the grassed area on the southern bank, this area will be an asset for the community to enjoy,” says Sheraine.

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