Residents cry out over tree trimming

The trees being trimmed.

MBOMBELA – The trees on the Sabie/Lydenburg Road always ensure motorists to experience a beautiful drive as they almost form an arch over the road. Residents in the area are upset that the trees will be trimmed by the Africa Route Clearance (ARC).

Leigh Voigt lives on a hill off the Sudwala turn-off from the N4. “This short section has always been a dark cool canopy and many people have enjoyed using it on their way to Sabie,” said Voigt. According to her, ARCs brief is to take a measurement of exactly eight metres from the centre of the road towards the outer verge and cut everything along that line both from the ground skyward. All the magnificent overhanging branches of the old Acacia sieberiana trees will be cut off. “It would be a tragedy if these were destroyed,” said Voigt.

The road is used by heavy trucks. A survey was conducted by HEAL (Houtboschloop Enviromental Action Link) and found that in 24 hours on a normal Tuesday no less than 140 trucks used that stretch of road. It has been claimed that to avoid both potholes and overhanging branches they tend to swerve and do not stick to their side of the road. Cars coming in the opposite direction have to be very careful if a truck is approaching them at speed.  Voigt, who drives that road almost daily has never found that to be a problem.

The shareholders and all the residents of the area are deeply concerned that the character of the valley will be tampered with.

Mr Philip Owen and his family have been involved in the Sudwala Caves for generations. Owen is a committed conservationist and he and his wife, Elsmarie, make it their duty to monitor the status of the area and are quick to note any degradation of either the bush or the river.

He is the chairman of HEAL. He and Voigt and approached Mr Simon Neale, private contractor working for ARC, on Tuesday afternoon and he agreed to stop cutting. Neale is a qualified arborist from England. According to him it’s the only viable route that makes it possible for abnormal loads to travel with water tanks to Phola, Mpumalanga.

“We have stopped cutting in the meantime, as it is upsetting the community, but we are actually doing them a favour,” said Neale. He will cut only the dangerous and obvious branches. Mr Rick Stadmann, operational manager of ARC, was given verbal permission by the Department of Public Works, Roads and Transport to trim the trees.

Lia van Zyl

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