National Parks Week kicks off

Monday, September 9, 2013

Kimberley – South Africans with valid identity documents will, as from today until Friday, be able to spend a day at a national park of their choice throughout the country free of charge.

Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said this was part of the South African National Parks Week, which was launched today at Mokala National Park in the Northern Cape. The theme for this week is ‘Know your national parks’.

Molewa called on South Africans to go out and discover the country’s beauty.

“We are saying to the people of South Africa, go out and discover the beauty of our country, rediscover the fauna and flora of our country’s most spectacular scenery and cultural treasures that make us proud South Africans.”

Molewa said National Parks Week recognised the success of the country’s parks and the critical role they play as catalysts for local economic development and job creation.

“Government is ensuring that we allow our people to visit these parks in order to connect to the very core of our nature. We remain committed to ensuring that our national parks continue to play a meaningful role in the lives and wellbeing of the communities they are serving,” she said.

The week-long campaign is applicable to all the national parks managed by SANParks, with the exception of Boulders at Table Mountain and Namaqua National Park.

SANParks Chief Executive Officer David Mabunda said National Parks Week gave them a chance to showcase the country’s parks as affordable local holiday destinations, which offer unique experiences.

“This is also an effort to reach out and allow all citizens a chance to freely access something they might not have been exposed to,” he said.

SANParks acting Head of Communications, Raynold Thakhudi, said the week was also aimed at cultivating a culture of pride in all South Africans in their relationship with the country’s natural, cultural and historical heritage.

“Environmental education and protection is the responsibility of everyone, not just a privileged few. If we are to create a sense of ownership of the natural heritage of South Africa in all South Africans, then all South Africans must be able to have access to such.

“We especially want our young people to take advantage of this opportunity because this heritage will be under their protection in the near future. The survival of the South African national Parks system and our natural and cultural heritage lies in the people of South Africa,” he said.

The idea of a National Parks Week was conceived in 2006, after a realisation that the vast majority of South Africans were not accessing national parks.

SANParks embarked on the campaign to encourage all South Africans, especially the communities around the parks, to share in what SANParks envisions to be “the pride and joy of all South Africans and the world”.

Since its inception, National Parks Week has since an influx of over 100 000 day visitors in all participating parks.

Young people under the age of 16 will be allowed free access without the requirement of proof of identity.

The free access to the parks does not include any commercial activities in the park, such as guided safaris in vehicles or guided walks. – SAnews.gov.za

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