FOSTER – OUR STORY
The Friends of the St Francis Nature Areas – FOSTER – was established 35 years ago. This voluntary organisation shoulders the bulk of the management role for the Seal Bay, Cape St Francis, Irma Booysen & Seal Point Nature Areas. These wonderful green gems offer a choice of hiking trails through various coastal habitats from rocky shores, beaches, and salt-stunted vegetation to dune fynbos, thickets, and small patches of true dune forests.
A brief history:
- Mid 1980s: “Friends” group started under leadership of Gwen and Henry Brown with guidance by Richard and Shirley Cowling.
- Late 1980s: Dave Bowmer initiated alien clearance in the Irma Booysen reserve.
- Mid 1990s: Lawrence Kruger and Richard Cowling produced a report to guide the establishment of the St Francis Coastal Open Space System, an interlinked system of conservation-worthy state land in the Greater St Francis region. This initiative was championed by Des Green and has remained the FOSTER blueprint since then. Des made excellent progress with the proclamation of the Irma Booysen reserve.
- 2000s: Considerable investment in alien plant clearance, trail establishment and signage, all implemented by Dave Bowmer and his team. Much progress has been made in proclaiming the reserves in the past five years, thanks to the superb effort of Wentzel Coetzer of Conservation Outcomes
The use of the nature areas has grown steadily over the years. It is no exaggeration to say the over the past 35 years, FOSTER has created a 330-hectare network of nature areas that is now the pride and joy of residents and visitors alike.
The customary role of “Friends” groups is to provide support to the responsible statutory authority. In the case of the different nature areas, the responsible bodies are the Kouga Municipality, the Eastern Cape Department of Development, Economic Affairs and Tourism (DEDEAT) and/or Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism (ECPT), and Transnet. Currently none are able or willing to provide the necessary support for the management of the reserves.
To conserve, maintain, protect, and provide access to the biodiversity of the FOSTER – managed nature areas, whilst promoting active stewardship of the environment.
FOSTER’s primary role is to nurture (foster) and preserve the biodiversity in the Irma Booysen, Seal Point, Seal Bay and Cape St Francis Nature Areas. Its secondary role is to ensure that the nature areas are accessible to the greater community and visitors.
FOSTER aims to achieve this mission through the following:
- The FOSTER managed nature areas will be proclaimed and legally protected.
- The trails will be properly maintained, with interpretative features, i.e. mapping and signage.
- There will be few seed-bearing alien woody plants in the nature areas.
- Our membership numbers will support our annual maintenance costs. Other funding will be sourced for ad hoc projects through appeals and events.
The nature areas management includes:
- Trail maintenance & management – erosion control, clearing of paths & erecting signage
- The control of alien vegetation to reduce fire risks
- Management & maintenance of fire breaks around the village
- Monitor animal movements & numbers through a system of trail cameras
- Marketing & public awareness campaigns about the importance of these areas of critical biodiversity
- Liaising with authorities
How do we fund our reserve management program?
The only source of funding for FOSTER is through the contributions made by residents, property owners and conservation minded people.
Operational costs are about R100 000 per annum, amounting to R330 per hectare.
How do these costs compare to those incurred by government-run reserves with similar management challenges and objectives?
The annual management costs per hectare for a similar-sized, dune veld reserve situated in a major metropolitan area with large visitor volumes is approximately R7 000. This is 28 TIMES more per hectare than the FOSTER-managed reserves.
Another candidate reserve for comparison, also in dune veld and within a major metropolitan area but having visitation rates like the FOSTER reserves, costs – at approximately R1 750 per hectare – SEVEN TIMES more to manage despite being about three times bigger than our combined reserves (costs per hectare decline with increasing reserve size).
* We have excluded salaries from these operational costs comparisons as FOSTER is supported by volunteers and pays only for contracted services. Salaries comprise between 30% and 50% of operational costs for government-managed reserves.