Creation Background


The Creation and Background

Sometime in 1993, Gill Hardingham, a member of Sandton Bird Club and before that Wits Bird Club, noticed much activity in an undeveloped area in the suburb in which she lived – President Ridge, Randburg. The area consisted of a dam used to wash sand for use in Durao’s sand mine, (where Brightwater Commons now is), and a fringe of dry land surrounding the dam with much exotica and willow trees.

Being curious, she went in and asked the first person she met, who happened to be with the conservation department of the local council, what was going on and was told that the land belonged to the council but that the need to wash sand had fallen away with the development of the Randburg Water Front and the council was investigating the possibility of making the area a public park or something similar. It was then that the idea of a bird sanctuary was born and it was put the to the conservation dept, consisting of Piet Oosthuizen and Andrew Crystal.

At subsequent meetings it was agreed to send a circular to all the complexes surrounding the site and ask the residents therein what they would like to see the plot used for – an open area such as a park or a bird sanctuary with controlled access. The answer came back overwhelmingly – a bird sanctuary.

This was advertised in the local press and a public meeting in the Ferndale Community Centre was set up to which some 50 people came. It was at this meeting that the “Friends of the President Ridge Bird Sanctuary” was formed and Gill was authorised to carry forward the idea of establishing a bird club with the sanctuary at the core of the club’s activities. A further meeting at the Hardingham house created the club, which was to be called the “President Ridge Bird Club” and Gill was elected the first Chairperson.

When all of this was advertised in the local newspapers, the response was immediate and a committee was formed with a start-up club membership of about 30 people. Those at the meeting all subscribed to the Club’s exchequer and a bank account was opened with R90 in it! At the same time the council proclaimed the creation of the President Ridge Bird Sanctuary to be open to the public at weekends and on public holidays. The area was fenced and security increased to satisfy the undertakings given to the residents of the surrounding complexes, each of which had an access gate and keys to allow residents reasonable entrance. Access at weekends and holidays was and still is, facilitated by a team of volunteers who open the gate and SASOL hide early in the morning and close it at dusk.

Now was when the hard work started. The dam had been fished by the local kids and youths for years and now it was out of bounds. The Shanwood Lake residents had been told by the developer that the sanctuary was part of their domain and they insisted on walking their dogs, fishing, riding bikes and motor bikes around it and generally treating the place as their own. It took much patience and PR work by Gill and others of her team to get the residents of the surrounding complexes to cooperate. The feral cat population was large, (lived in the Sanctuary, fed at the Waterfront). Gill took advice from various sources and started a campaign of trapping, neutering and returning the cats to the Sanctuary. Kittens had to be euthanased as most were diseased and this could have, (and probably did), spread to the domestic cats in the surrounding complexes.

But the work progressed – a brick and thatch hide was sponsored by SASOL, as was a wheelchair path. Club members also subscribed to extend the path. Two bridges were built over the spruit, one where the stream entered the dam and the other over the spillway. Exotica was rooted out and a programme of indigenous tree planting commenced. To date over 240 indigenous trees and shrubs have been planted. ‘Trees for Africa’ was a major donor but members also donated trees.

Gill’s maintenance team turned out, (and still does), every Thursday to clean up, spray exotica, pick up rubbish and pull plastic out of the dam. The Club has a clean-up day once a year when maintenance and heavier work is done.

The President Ridge Bird Sanctuary is Randburg’s own bird sanctuary and those who find it for the first time remark how beautifully it is maintained and what a pleasure it is to sit and enjoy the peace and surroundings.



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