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A National Monument and established over 140 years ago the Grahamstown Botanical Gardens, or “Bots”, are set to become the latest tourist attraction in the Makana district. Following recent developments, the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism has through its Poverty Relief Programme and the National Botanical Institute, granted Rhodes University’s Grounds and Gardens Section R2.9 million over a period of two and a half years to renovate and secure an estimated 12-15 hectares of land. Grounds and Gardens Manager, Mark Hazell explained that the renovations would take place in phases, the first of which is to fence in the area utilising a combination of painted palisade and pole fencing. Once the area has been secured, alien vegetation will be removed with an emphasis on re-introducing indigenous and regional specimens.

A view of the proposed fencing line
A view of the proposed fencing line

Stone walls, footpaths and roads will be built to create a circular infrastructure that will take visitors on a 30-45 minute walk through the Gardens which also aims to accommodate disabled persons.

                 Two main entry points will now be utilised, one just below Grey Dam and the other from Lucas Avenue opposite the Botany Department. Ideally a “community garden”, Mr Hazell envisions the Botanical Gardens as becoming a place of conservation, education and skills training through active community involvement. Plans to build a Conservation Centre will assist in this aim to create a sustainable resource which will hold workshops and training exercises.

The R2.9 million will be used primarily for materials and equipment, employment and fencing but will also create spin-off opportunities for small businesses in town. 

                

Early stages of Peace Pool construction

Mr Hazell explained that with the amount of work that needs to be done, Rhodes will outsource to small and medium sized enterprises in the area. The project is set to be completed around 2006 and although renovated aims to maintain links to its history, through the use of stone walls and footpaths. Mr Hazell says that he would like the Gardens to “entice people to stay longer” and become an “educational experience” that can be beneficial for both Grahamstownians as well as contribute to a budding tourist industry.

A further boost to the project was when DEAET granted an additional amount of money from the poverty relief program. This second injection allocated R14.1 million to be used for a visitor centre, tea garden, and EE centre. as well as further upgrading of the gardens. included in the project is the upgrading of the Ornee Cottage previously known as the Monkey Puzzle Restaurant to incorporate the provision of improved toilet facilities for the public.

Poverty relief and skills transfer are important components of the project. A number of members of the local community have already received training in various areas.

 

View of Grahamstown from upper contour path looking north east