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.
Background story from James Clarke.