Braamfontein Spruit History

Background story from James Clarke.
The Braamfontein Spruit was generally unknown by that name in the early 1970s. It was commonly called the Klein Jukskei which, of course, is a separate stream to the west.
In 1973 I found a map dating back to the 30s where it was called the Braamfontein Spruit and over three days I followed (what I thought was the Braamies) on foot from Emmarentia (this section is the Montgomery Spruit) to the Sand Spruit discovering, literally, dens of thieves along the overgrown banks and, I estimated, 400 tons of rubbish including many car hulks. I found some delightful sections but they were hidden by wattles and gums but I could see the potential as a river for walkers and riders. I never thought of bikes.
I mapped it and The Star published this first map of the Braamies in 1974 when I was running a campaign we called CARE (an environmental awareness campaign). I suggested we “put the sparkle back into the Braamfontein Spruit” – and so gradually the stream was uncovered and revived.
It was Peter Milstein, then deputy director of the Transvaal Nature Conservation division who first pointed out how the Braamies and the Sand could become parkland. This inspired me to go around to service organisations and show them maps and pictures of the stream – and appeal for some sort of action. The Lions took it up and won an international prize for their efforts.
The Lions (Zoo Lake Chapter) organised a “Braamies Day” in 1974 and I appealed via The Star for public support. One Saturday morning in spring 400 people came to the stream just off the Rustenberg Road in Parkhurst and the 32 km clean-up began there. The Boy Scouts built a bridge across the stream which saved hours of work for those wheeling rubbish to the hoppers that Waste Tech provided. Coca Cola sent a truckload of drinks (gratis) for people who worked through the day. The mayor turned up (Dr Bensusan) in formal attire but spent the day hauling car hulks out of the stream. We must have cleared 10 hectares. Johannesburg municipality mowed the grass for the first time ever. The Lions had people to remove the matted wattles and some of the gum trees and to our amazement it exposed a beautiful granite outcrop through which the stream tumbled. Near sunset a local butcher (I just wish I could recall who) arrived with a bakkie full of meat and as darkness took over I saw a dozen braai fires going.
A liability (fore the spruit was a dangerous place up to then) had become an asset.
The Braamies became the longest municipal park in the world (32 km). Three municipalities were involved – Johannesburg, Randburg and Sandton – and they formed a joint committee – historically the first metropolitan act involving the three.
Care organised a festival of the Braamies with bands and market stalls and other activities along much of its length and a fair at the Sandton Field and Study Centre. Sandton erected a a dance platform at SFSC where, for the first time, I saw black people and white dancing together.
Around 1978 I suggested that we form a corps of river rangers and The Star sponsored red uniforms and scout hats for the riders – just like the Canadian Mounties. I wanted the riders, at week ends, to be conspicuous from the highways that cross the Braamies because I felt it would draw public attention to its recreational potential and to the fact it was patrolled and therefore safe.
It would be great to stage another Braamies Day with the accent, perhaps, on cycling and jogging.

James Clarke – Stoeptalk

Who Are Mountain Bikers

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Profile of Mountain bikers

Johannesburg based mountain bikers in general are law-abiding citizens.  Many are nature lovers and keen conservationists.  As with any group of people, there will be some individuals who seen to be anti-social and/or destructive.  Fortunately these elements are in the minority and are actively discouraged by other mountain bikers.  The trails we want to contribute to will be unlikely to attract such “undesirables”.

It is our experience that the most likely people to use the Braamfontein trails on a regular basis will be of all ages with the majority falling between the ages of 24 – 50.  These people are mostly homeowners within Johannesburg.

Johannesburg based mountain bikers are generally health orientated and want to cycle for fitness and entertainment.  Parents would like to bring their children to the parks to enjoy these trails and have time together as a family which is fast becoming a rarity in the modern society.

Mountain bikers subscribe to the commonly accepted  “Rules of the trail” which are:

1. Ride on open Trails only

2. Leave No Trace

3. Control Your Bicycle

4. Yield to Others

5. Never Scare Animals

6. Plan Ahead

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Cycling on the Braamfontein Spruit

Cycling and specifically mountain biking is one of the fastest growing sports and pastimes in South Africa.  Mountain biking is a pastime that can be enjoyed by enthusiasts, competitors and families alike.  However it is difficult to find anywhere that is safe, convenient and accessible in Johannesburg.

Many cyclists would like to spend an hour or so after work to exercise and families would enjoy time together on the weekend without having to drive to far to enjoy the outdoors.  With the rate of development and the current crime situation in Johannesburg, there are very few facilities that provide this infrastructure.  The Braamfontein Spruit is one of these rare jewels, not only from a cyclist’s perspective, but also from the perspectives of walkers, dog walkers, runners and bird-lovers.

Cycling on the roads is becoming more dangerous and with the current levels of congestion cyclists need a safe environment in which to cycle. Johannesburg has a multitude of parks that are ideal for recreational and family cycling.  Many of these parks have existing trails that are used on a regular basis by cyclists and walkers alike and provide the thousands of cyclists and walkers pleasurable exercise opportunities.

However as a result of sustained use, weather and other factors such as littering and at times vandalism, these trails deteriorate and there are some sections that can become congested or create conflict between users.  The Johannesburg Mountain Bike Advocacy Group (“JMBAG”) under the guidance of African Mountain Bike Association (“AMA”) and with the kind endorsement of the Johannesburg City Parks (“JCP”), propose to assist JCP with the maintenance, improvement, upgrading and extension of some of these trails.

The envisaged trails cater for cyclists of all ages to use, free from danger of traffic, in safety and convenience.  The trails will be simple enough for beginners and children but with sufficient options and variety to be entertaining and challenging for more advanced cyclists too.

With this in mind, the JMBA has developed a mission whereby we would like:-

  • To work in conjunction with City Parks, local residents, local government and cycling clubs to establish a sustainable multi-use Mountain bike trail
  • To encourage the increased use of the parks, to create awareness of the parks and improve safety within the parks.
  • To encourage shared use of parks and trails and foster a spirit of co-operation and ownership of the parkland between all park users.