WHERE ARE OUR BEACHES :
After living in Langebaan for close to 14 years now, it is sad to say we have almost nothing left of our town that made me stay and want to live here.
When I arrived here in March 1998, the town was a well run place, with big expansive beaches too walk on, I remember the main beach infront of Pearlys with it’s long beach and massive salt pan behind the dunes, yes there was a salt pan there once not so long ago. I still have photos of my son playing there on that point that was eroded away. I also remember the storms that took those sand dunes apart meter by meter with every wave that ate at it.
That beach that had the big sand dunes and salt pan has now been eroded down to a thin piece of beach around 1.3km long and 200m at most in width. When I speak to the older generation that lived here for years before I arrived, and we speak about that specific beach they all tell me you were able to walk to Mykonos from Langebaan along the beach.
Yes the erosion came and took, and also took houses that people where living in. When this happened there was quick fix solutions like the dumping of rocks to hold back the ocean from further eroding the land as the beach was already gone. But there was no quick or long term solution to putting the beach back. I will justify this statement later with some pointers.
Besides the erosion that took place the other main reason for us loosing our beaches, has been due to development and very bad town planning. I have been looking at three other towns very close too us in Langebaan, they are Yzerfontein, Shelly Point and Paternoster. If you look at these towns or places they are very well run and are clean but most importantly have accessable beaches. From a tourism point of view these towns have been growing slowly but importantly correctly. Langebaan has grown quickly but not correctly, and this is affecting our tourism negatively.
Langebaan has in a matter of a few years been able to develop quite a few private developments; the concept is great and sounds safe for those living in it. Only negative thing is that they cut off access to those wanting to use the beaches on what these developments are built on. The develpments all claim to give people access to their beaches, but I consider a 100m plus walk to the beach not access but a deterrant to people who want to use these beaches. Imagine a family of four having to walk with their goods down to the beach, not a great idea if you are carrying beach chairs, umbrellas, basket and all the other beach accessories. Then there are the people who also live in these develpments and shout at you to get off the beach cause it is “theirs” and yes I have heard of this happening! The other crazy side of this is that most of them are holiday houses and are only used on weekends and holidays!
I guess it is a catch 22 as they can deny you access over their land yet the beach is a public place.
Shelly Point is an interesting development in that they are privately owned yet not once in all my years of going there and using the beaches have I been denied access into the development. Yet on my own door step I have been denied to enter these developments to use the beaches they are situated on.
My ideas are not just thumb sucked they are ideas I have been thinking about for a long time. I maybe wrong in some of them and others I may be quoting from other people but I will mention them to make other people also think about the area they live in and also to leave something for the next generation.
I will start from the north side of Langebaan and work my way down the coast to Sharkbay.
NORTH OF PARADISE BEACH.
This stretch of beach up too the iron-ore harbour is just short of 5km in length and is a favourite amoungst fisherman and people going for long walks. The north side of this beach has been blocked off to access and thus the only access is the parking lot behind Curro Private School. Even the walk from this parking lot to the beach is 150m over steep dunes Another aspect to think about is that there is no signage telling people there is a public beach at the end of this parking lot.
This is the first development along our north coastline and also deny’s you access to the development unless you are visiting someone or living there. The ironic thing about this development is that there is a public parking lot at the northside of the development. Only problem is that there is no road that takes you too it. And so this piece of tar stands there unused the distance between the parking lot and the beach 40m
Club Mykonos is a strange one as somedays they allow you in the gate and then somedays they don’t. Currently they ask you a R10 parking fee if you go down to the marina. So in a way you are now paying for access. Yet they are the only development on the north side of Langebaan that allows you public access to Hobie Beach on the south side of the resort. This 400m of beach is the first real accessable beach in nearly 6.6km of beach from the iron ore harbour. This beach has public parking right on the beach and has also been the only place on our small coastline that has managed in recent times to start 3 businesses and attractions for people to come and enjoy namely Boesmanland Plaas Kombuis, Lekker-by-die-See and the Beachbar. These three establishments have become popular amoungst tourists and locals alike.
CALYPSO BEACH AND DEVELOPMENT.
Driving along from the Laguna Mall 4-way stop towards Langebaan you start to drive through what I call the cluster of Langebaans private developments Blue Lagoon, Langebaan Country Estate, Calypso, Waterfront, The Cove and Sunset Heights. I will also include LeentjiesKlip Caravan Park with these developments. These developments have been designed to be secure complexes and serve that purpose.
Yet they also serve to keep the public off these beaches and they do this directly and indirectly. Directly they do not allow people to enter their complexes and force you to park outside the complex and walk down to the beach in the case of Calypso beach it is a 170m walk from the parking lot to the closest beach. In the case of the Waterfront it is also a 160m walk from the parking lot too the beach. The cove has no parking facilities at all. As for Leentjiesklip Caravan Park in all my years of living here it has never allowed anyone in the park unless they are visiting someone or camping there.
Indirectly these developments have also made no attempt to notify people that there are public beaches infront of their develpments. I get countless people who come to my shop asking where the beaches in Langebaan are. There needs to be signage of some sort telling people where our beaches are for them too use. Langebaan has become a day tourist destination, and with no beaches to facilitate these people we will lose their business.
The distance between the end of Hobie Beach and the Strandloper restaurant is 1.8km so if you take the 1.8km and the 6.6km that amounts to 8.4km of unaccessable beach on the northside of Langebaan.
STRANDLOPER –FRIDAY ISLAND.
This stretch of coastline is 1.4km of completely eroded coastline and only consists of rock barriers. This stretch of coastline has become a baren part of Langebaan economically, and yet it has waterfront status. Due to the erosion no one wishes to build or develop this part of Langebaan as people are still scared of the chances of the ocean claiming the land back. Yet in my opinion this piece of coastline is Langebaan’s answer to solving many problems the town is now facing. If you take this stretch of land alot of it is owned by local government namely the See Breeze caravan park and the rugby fields and the land up too the Strandloper. With also a few house that are used by the South African Police Services for their members. I am not saying that we need to get rid of theses facilities. If we can re-stablish the beach along this coast can you imagine what can happen to the caravan park as an example? It will not only be used on Easter and X-mas periods but maybe instead every weekend to its full potential.
Another factor or factors to consider is the lack of beach space left in Langebaan and in saying this you need to consider the beach users on and off the water. Currently usable coast and beach space is limited now even further with the fencing up of the Sharkbay development also, so now we have even less beach to use. So where is this overflow of people who come to Langebaan going to go if they want to use “A” beach in Langebaan? Remember our population expands too between 30-40 thousand people in season.
Sorry a hind thought to this paragraph is to consider the problem that kiters who are “seasonal” tourists to this town, they take-up alot of space on the beaches as they unfortunately use close to 30m lines in order to do their sport, the main beach in front of Pearly’s will now become their prime area if they are restricted to use the Sharkbay beaches. Also in watching over time I have watched how shore fisherman who are not seasonal visitors but yearly alround visitors have been pushed off this beach inorder to make space for the kiters who are using this piece of beach for their launching and setting up of kites. I am not knocking the kiters at all but am making a point that they do take up huge amounts of space to the detrement of other beach go’ers.
I have jumped to the following beach namely “main beach” in order to highlight some problems that can be corrected if we are able to restore the beach on the northside of Langebaan.
First of all it would be great to be able to restore this section of beach and be able to replace something that was there before, but besides even this sentimental reason for restoring this section there are other reasons too such as to be able to give back those living in the North Langebaan a beach also to use. This community has because of the erosion also been declined to use a beach and they as all of us living here also deserve to have a place to play and enjoy instead of walking all the way down too the windsurf center to enjoy a piece of beach as they are currently doing.
Secondly this section if restored can create a bridge between Langebaans two business nodes namely Langebaan and Mykonos. With the creation of guest houses and restaurants thereby bridging instead of seperating the business districts as currently seems to be happening in the Langebaan municipal area.
Another thought is that restaurants and guest houses also create employment for local people, if anything after all the years of living here industrial development has only imported people from other places and has not really employed the local population who unfortunately were not qualified enough to get these jobs that were created.
So let us create a beach area that will be beneficial to the locals for once and not to the few who don’t even live here and this is refering too the develpments who are owned by the few. When I mention this I have an idea of what was created in Paternoster with there little fish market down on the beach. We are living on the west coast so let’s get that west coast feeling back in our town. And not go Tuscany as some developments have been allowed to do.
Thirdly by restoring this beach area we will be able to create a place for the overflow of beach go’ers during our peak seasons. And most importantly also give the locals their beach back and let them also feel part of the community again.
Some pointers to consider from water go’ers point of view if this beach is restored is that
• There will be more space for kitesurfers and wind surfers to use
• The fisherman will also be given some beach to use.
• Hobie cats may even be able to launch there hobies from this beach and so therefore might not even need the current launch site on the main beach(the distantance between the water and point of entry will be shorter and not between the sensitive dune area of main beach as currently is.)
• In the last few years Langebaan has also evolved into a surf destination. With the building of the sandbag retainer walls and the swell that enters the lagoon, we have been privalged enough to be granted with a safe teaching wave for people to learn to surf, bodyboard and paddleboard. And there by creating more work opportunity in teaching these sports.
• Inorder to restore this beach another retainer wall will have to be built a little more north from the current retainer walls. If this is done we could even be able to create another attraction to Langebaan by creating a man made wave. (this is only an idea and would need to be consulted on with engineers but as Langebaans surfers are on the increase and with new people taking up the sport all the time this could be as I said another attraction for Langebaans youth)
BEACH BETWEEN THE RETAINER WALLS.
Wow this section of beach is an intersesting one and I must take my hat off too those who helped build and construct it. I watched as these retainer walls were constructed, and it was a long and tedese job but it got done. And now where there once was no beach but rock retainer walls we have a beach of over 360m in length.
This new bay between the retainer walls has added more than just beach to this part of Langebaan it also helped for this part of coastline to remain economically active with the building of new houses and the survival of three businesses on this stretch namely 114 ON MAIN guest house, the Cape Sports Center and Friday-Island guest house and conference center. All these facilities are world renowned and are a big asset to Langebaan from a tourism point of view.
With the survival of these businesses and the development of new houses, I don’t think that I need to justify myself in saying that we need to actively persue the option of regaining more beach area in the north of Langebaan and make this area even more economically active from a tourism point. We need to insure that this area should not become a retail area at all as we have enough areas for retail currently in this municipal area.
The positives of this section of re-constructed beach has not only been a economical positive but as I have said before it has become a social positive also for those living in north Langebaan as they too have a small peice of beach to also use.
If these retainer walls are to remain, we might need to rethink the construction and maintenance of them. There are some design faults that may need to be corrected and these corrections will need to be consulted on, but we have seen that they do work and that they have added value to our town, and instead of repairing them a more solid solution should be implemented that in my opinion is more maintainance free and not as current going to cost us to repair on a continous basis.
LANGEBAANS MAIN BEACH
This section of beach is surely Langebaans jewel in its crown when it comes to its beaches. I say this because it is the most used and recognised beach on this coastline, as stated before it is not the big beach it use to be and even though it is a fraction of the size it was, the beach usage has more than doubled in recent years. Fishing has become more popular, hobie cats and windsurfing has become a craze in Langebaan as it was many years ago. But the main impact on this beach has been the kitesurfers who travel from all parts of the world to use this lagoon to have fun and learn how to kite. Also remember that the town has also grown adding also to people just using it as a place for relaxation and social activities.
These sports and activities add alot of value to what we as Langebaaners have to offer to people coming to visit our town and the reason why many of us live here.
Yet the pressure on this beach is becoming too much and will in my opinion become even greater with the closing off of the Sharkbay area. This is something we will have to consider going forward.
Parking areas for this beach are also inadequate .Season after season you see how people park there cars on the island in Bree Str. as a result of not enough parking space, and then ontop of that they get fined for parking on this pavement. I don’t think that is very inviting to people who come to our town and then leave with a ticket in their pocket. There is parking space infront of the Smartie Houses and behind them. But to my knowledge this is also not publicly advertised or clearly marked.
So yes parking for this beach is a problem. Another problem that has arisen is the pumping of the storm water from the dam at Pikkieland onto the beach infront of the hobie launch area. In the past this water was pumped down Bree str. at night and so when it reached the beach it ran off quikly into the ocean. Now that it has been diverted to infront of the hobie enterance there is a green build-up on the beach from the water being pumped? This apperently is not toxic but come-on who wants their kids to play on a beach with green stuff on it, Big Bay in Blouberg has the same problem from the run-off of the development that has been put up there.
Currently this beach has been sectioned off to the different users. Namely the sand launch site on the south side, then moving north a small fishing and moaring area for small boats and fishermen, after this a demarcated swimming area. These areas are fine and seem to be well managed and run, the problem comes where the kiters are mean’t to launch their kites as this area as mentioned is also used by normal beach go’ers and fisherman. I don’t want the kiters to be pushed away but this part of the beach is going to have to be better managed going forward. due to the kiters some fisherman are using the sandbags as a place to cast their rods unfortunately this practise is not encouraged due to the sharp objects used by the fishermen that damage the bags, but catch 22 where do they go!
THE AREA BETWEEN MAIN BEACH AND YACHT CLUB
If we keep on moving south from main beach the first area you come across is the military pier although public access to the pier itself is restricted the area around this pier is widely used by fisherman and those who know about this little piece of beach in the middle of town. There is no real parking in this area except where the sand launch site is which as we know in season is usually parked up with with cars and boat trailers. Then there is Park Board’s office area with no beach area at all until you reach the end of Uitsig str. where there is a little beach of 70m in length but one problem no parking except for those that live down at the end of this street.
After this beach there are rock outcrops with houses built on or near the coastline restricting access to the beach rock areas, mostly fisherman use these rock outcrops to cast their rods and collect their bait. The road running parrellel to this area is Lagoon str. which is quite wide and has facilitated for parking down almost the length of this road. Unfortunately the access to beach and rock area is limited and also not marked.
The yacht club is a major asset to Langebaan as it provides boat go’ers good and safe access to the Lagoon itself, unfortunately due to restrictions the club is closed to outsiders during peak seasons to use the facility unless they are a memeber of the club. I understand the reasons for the restrictions, namely liquer laws and shortage of space for people to park their cars and trailors. Yet I think the impact of boating from a business point of view should not be ignored, there are countless businesses that are surviving due to the boating trade in Langebaan. From taclkle shops, boating shops and yacht/powerboat training schools. With the expansion of Langebaan the pressure for another entry point for boaters I think should maybe also be considered. We have lost revenue to other places such as Yzerfontein and Shelly Point/St Helena as they have proper and accessable launching sites for visitors to our area. Club Mykonos has great launching facilities but also have an open/closed policy as they see fit.
After the yacht club there are really no more accessable beach areas, there are a few paths that give fisherman access to places where they can cast their rods and collect bait but from a normal beach go’ers point of view there is not really anymore accessable or what I consider accessable beaches to the public
Only time will tell what will happen with this piece of prime beach area, yet if we are denied the access over this land to get to this beach we as a town will really have to re-assess in a big way how our little 1,7km of beach that we have left is used and managed.