Advocacy: TCMF review

NB! Find out what this process might mean for the future of mountain biking in Tokai.

The 20-year Tokai Cecilia Management Framework review

As many of you might already know, TokaiMTB has quite a good relationship with SANParks which ultimately works to your benefit for improved cycling in this National Park. Conveniently located in the central section of the Table Mountain National Park, Tokai offers a mountain bike trail network for all to enjoy and since Tokai and Cecilia were officially handed over from commercial forestry in 2005 to be included in the Table Mountain National Park, TokaiMTB has remained involved in the upkeep and safety on the trails that caters to the mountain bike community but benefits all visitors to the area.


TokaiMTB recently submitted a proposal based on our history and achievements in the area over the 17-year period working with SANParks. It includes the need for an official agreement between the two groups and makes recommendations on improvements to the Tokai trail network.  We now need your comments in support of this proposal but there isn’t much time – have a read!


A few years ago, after many years of not making much meaningful progress other than to the trails, TokaiMTB finally tried something a little different to help improve its working relationship with SANParks, which seems it’s paid dividends in terms of where mountain biking in Tokai currently stands and, for that reason for the rest of the Park too.

On our current path, the future has never looked better with our goals neatly aligned to SANPark’s Gateway to the Park vision for Tokai, intended to breathe new life into the old buildings with plans for an ambitious world-class visitor hub that would seem is geared to have everyone involved. 

TokaiMTB has offered SANParks our full support for this vision and what better way to compliment this world-class goal than to create a recreational facility on the slopes above to match.

The Boulders trail in flower, like so many other iconic trails in Tokai that Cape Town’s cyclists have enjoyed for over 30 years.

So what is “world-class” mountain biking you may wonder. For us, it pretty much covers all aspects of running a trails facility of this nature in a National Park set against the slopes of Table Mountain. It needs to be aligned to National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA) conservation principles and, provide all the necessary services and support recreational visitors will require. 

Right at the top of the list is sustainability and rightly so. Number one on our list is to ensure that mountain biking is both fun and compatible with the area that was once covered in trees but now due to fire in 2015, is no longer afforded protection from the elements the pine trees once offered. Fortunately, TokaiMTB looks well ahead into the future and the piece of government legislation that would end 120-years of commercial forestry in Tokai, approved as far back as 2005, had been on our radar for some time. So we had a plan for future sustainability but because the trees were due to be felled only by 2025, it wasn’t exactly urgent to implement –not until the fire that is. All our plans had unexpectedly raced right up to greet us in one hot, three-night resin fuelled tornado of flames.

Your TokaiMTB membership and what it has meant for the trails

By this point we had made a clear decision to take a different approach from all the other attempts to improve mountain biking in Tokai. We decided the best course of action would be to bite the bullet and comply with every requirement SANParks might need from us. This would later mean that TokaiMTB, now as representatives for mountain biking in the Table Mountain National Park, would go on to not only restore the trails lost to fire and felling of burnt trees but to also offer safety, security and ongoing trail maintenance that has completely turned the mountain biking facility at Tokai around to be the only section in the Park that receives this kind of attention on a consistent, year-round basis. Our trails not only conform to SANParks spec, they provide you with source of great enjoyment that, as the numbers we’ve been tracking over several years show, you guys clearly can’t get enough of! 

Tokai is proof, as the signed SANParks trail spec sheets confirm, that trails in the area can successfully sustain what is arguably the largest volume of riders in the Western Cape and, quite possibly even in the country.

So yes, the trails are compatible and SANParks is happy.

TokaiMTB is supported by corporate sponsors and concerned members of the public that without their contributions, due to sustainability, the fate of the trails would lie in the balance.

The Tokai Cecilia Management Framework review

This is where the story takes a sharp turn however. SANParks runs their National Parks by a set of plans with a 20-year overarching plan for each area known as a “management plan/framework”. The 20-year review of the Tokai and Cecilia Management Framework (TCMF) has finally come around and is due to be completed in 2025. The original plan for these areas was approved back in 2005 when Tokai and Cecilia were finally handed over by MTO to SANParks to become part of the Park.

The official opening of the TCMF review held at Kirstenbosch in May 2021.

The TCMF review, once approved, will ultimately guide how both areas are managed for the next 20 years. The process opened midway through 2021 with a public comment period, where anyone and everyone –and their dog– commented on how they preferred the two areas be managed or what changes they would want to see made. All was going well until we were alerted to a comment made by a representative of a fairly large organisation who, in their words, wanted trails in Tokai to be “decommissioned immediately”, citing damage to the ground and a threat to biodiversity as the reasons.

We all know of the, ‘fynbos vs shade battle’ that has raged on since the 2015 fire. Large areas of commercial pine in Lower Tokai were felled to make way for conservation (SANPark’s primary mandate) but in the front lines, on the ground, it has been a battle between users and volunteer botanists vying over a small area that could potentially provide for the restoration of critically endangered vegetation types, which, lets’s be honest, we all deep down want to see restored but not at a complete loss of that which we rely on for recreation and, for some people that also means shade.

It gets a little complicated here; SANParks has a mandate for conservation but also one for the people’s well-being through caring for Cape Town’s largest asset. Simply put, SANParks supports responsible recreation in this National Park and mountain biking in Tokai is one such example. Not everyone shares this view unfortunately and for some reason, they continue to perpetuate the long-standing stigma of mountain biking being the most damaging, irresponsible use of National Park land as their tool and agenda for closing the trails. We are so tired of this image. Members of TokaiMTB have worked tirelessly for years to dispel this myth and have gone on to prove that our recreation is just as important as any of the others. To boot, mountain biking right now is maybe even the most compliant of all recreational users out there today. We have certainly lead by example and for it, we currently get to enjoy a shared vision of recreation in the Table Mountain National Park. 

Public comments, a concern.

An individual commenting as a representative of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), certainly the most threatening among comments against cycling, appears to believe that mountain biking on single track trails does not belong in Tokai. There is a growing concern around how recreational users are slowly being pushed out of existing recreational areas in the name of conservation and there are several examples of where this has happened already. If left unchecked, one day we might actually find ourselves, “relegated to areas off the peninsula”. This is all a bit bizarre given TokaiMTB’s alignment to conservation.

So we have finally been dragged into this long standing and unnecessary battle over conservation vs recreational land and assuming these comments are sanctioned by the organisation, to get the proverbial fight started SANBI appears to have come out swinging with hyperbole set to max!


Available from the SANParks website, the 1st round of comments can be downloaded by the public at https://tinyurl.com/mry9ckhs. While most comments support the recreational use of SANParks land, it is troubling that an organisation of this size and stature should flag and overstate the Tokai mountain bike trails as “environmentally insensitive”, despite the efforts from a dedicated team receiving private funds to conduct year-round maintenance. Please also note that, “downhill” in this context, is not downhill as you may know it, it refers to any trail pointing down-the-hill..

It’s not the first time we’ve found ourselves at the mercy of “science” and, if it wasn’t for the support shown by a small but committed portion of Tokai’s riders, we may not have been as well prepared to represent mountain biking in what is  possibly the most important review to take place for the next 20-years. It is only through public support that TokaiMTB has been able to represent, consistently maintain and support mountain biking in this National Park.

TokaiMTB assists SANParks with road maintenance now too. Just consider how well the single track trails have coped through a major drought that brought the Cape to its knees, only to be immediately followed by what has been described as, the heaviest rainfall the Western Cape has experienced in decades. When compared to the roads, the photos show a very different perspective from those painted in comments critical of the mountain bike trails. 

Since we launched our TokaiMTB advocacy membership and corporate sponsorship in 2020, we have ploughed roughly R3 million into Upper Tokai in order to maintain this recreational activity, vital to people’s health and well-being. That number is in addition to the fees SANParks charge cyclists for access to the trails –none of which goes directly into building or maintaining the trails. It’s the public paying to keep the area safe and the trails in check and for this effort, through this model of “public partnership” we have built up several years worth of; SANParks signed trail spec sheets, countless hours of work logged on the trails, a “work method statement” in development that guides trail maintenance for the various mountain bike disciplines (i.e. cross-country to downhill), and a slowly growing membership platform that raises critical funds to keep this all going. If you have not yet considered joining TokaiMTB, you should know that without your name on the list and contribution, these trails may not exist in this form in the future. 

TokaiMTB fortunately prides itself on professionalism and as such have responded to these threats of closure by following due process and taking part in the TCMF review. We currently sit on two panels, namely Health and Well-being (recreation) and Facilities, along with other representatives and stakeholders. There are several other groups in the process that include, fire management, heritage, biodiversity, safety, etc., each also tasked with helping guide the future of the two areas. 

Over the course of 6 months, these groups have put together various documents and proposals that were presented to the SANParks CEO and Board in Tokai in December, 2021. SANParks have since responded with a draft plan and we are proud to say that where mountain biking is concerned, we seem to be in a good position but the process is still far from over. We don’t yet know what form mountain biking will take when the process is over and this is where we need your help, again. Your comments now need to be heard and are critical to our collective success.

The draft TCMF document (now called the Tokai Cecilia Implementation Plan – TCIP) relies on the public taking part in a second round of comments based on the contents of this new document but time is limited, the comment period ends in a few days, at the end of May. 

Call to action!

It is our duty to represent you and our pleasure to help guide you through understanding the issues and successes this year-long process has yielded so far.

TokaiMTB submitted a proposal based on our history and achievements in the area over the 17-year period working with SANParks and details the need for an official agreement and improvements to the Tokai trail network. Our submission is summarised below and provides context to our plans to help improve and assist in enhancing the area according to SANPark’s “Gateway” vision.

The comment period is open until the end of this month (Tuesday, 31 May, 2022), so have a read but don’t delay in responding. A short email in support of the points below can be emailed to: tcmf@sanparks.org


TokaiMTB summarised TCMF submission. 

AIM: To upgrade, enhance, expand and manage in partnership between SANParks and TokaiMTB, the Tokai cycling facility as a product for visitors, recreational users and disadvantaged communities to safely experience and appreciate the natural environment on bicycle, in TokaiMTB’s proposed Tokai world-class mountain biking facility.

TokaiMTB will continue to provide the Cape Town public with a sense of pride and “ownership” over their favourite network of trails, while providing underprivileged youth and youth-at-risk a structured route of entry to getting involved in this healthy and rewarding mountain biking activity.

Assisted through a formalised management agreement with SANParks, TokaiMTB will be better positioned to raise the required funds to continue it’s daily operations that include; advocacy, trail maintenance, regular safety patrols, as well as emergency response and coordination for all visitors frequenting the area.

With assistance from SANParks, TokaiMTB proposes; partnered management of the activity and the expansion and completion of the current recreational mountain bike routes through the addition of: 

  • a formalised activity management agreement between SANParks and TokaiMTB,
  • shared-trails in Tokai (where applicable),
  • a single direction (where applicable) “spine loop” climbing trail where riders with varying fitness and skill levels would benefit from a gradual elevation gain, as opposed to the steep climb up the main jeeptrack currently shared with two-way vehicular traffic,
  • through the use of discontinued jeep tracks converted to single track, piece together a climbing trail that safely meanders through the area to reach Tokai’s Level 5 contour,
  • creative single track links between contour levels (where required), to complete the “spine loop” climbing route,
  • linking of existing approved “dead-end” or incomplete single track trails to complete the network of mountain bike trails in Tokai.

TokaiMTB also proposes that the Tokai Manor Precinct Plan be revived and fast-tracked for the realisation of the SANParks envisioned, “gateway to the park”. This would offer an enhanced recreational experience for mountain bikers as well as other users, complemented by a top class mountain bike trail network in the area.

As cycling is the predominant recreation in the area, cyclists would provide constant foot-traffic to the proposed “lifestyle centred” precinct upgrade.


More about TokaiMTB

TokaiMTB is a registered non-profit company that exists only through private member donations and corporate sponsorship of the trails. All funds received are ploughed directly into the trails, as well as into your safety through consistent vehicle patrols and fast emergency response & co-ordination.

TokaiMTB Emergencies: 0870 509 000

Our dedicated emergency number, provided by Euphoria Telecom, gives you direct access to TokaiMTB in an emergency and with our extensive list of emergency contacts, we can determine the best suited and quickest response required for any situation.

TokaiMTB Membership:

Membership to TokaiMTB acts as our ‘vehicle’ for donations but sadly, membership numbers are still only placed at under 10% of the riders streaming through the gates. Thank you to everyone who believes in us, it’s because of you that we have these amazing trails in Tokai.

If you’re still on the fence, one look at the trails should convince you. Just do it, your support is worth more than you might realise!

Get involved, support trails, become a member..

TokaiMTB Corporate sponsors, past and present:

TokaiMTB would like to thank our members and all corporate sponsors to date who have supported our vision of providing local, national and international visitors with a World-Class recreational mountain biking facility in the heart of the Table Mountain National Park.

Freewheel Cycology
SRAM
Trek
Ciovita
Bikepark at Constantia Uitsig
Bounty XP
Vida’e
Evo Bikes
Under Armour
Bike Hub
Euphoria Telecom

Image Makers Corporate Wear
Pirelli
Stoke Suspension Works
Wixworth Gin
ENS Africa
Revolution Cycles
TPNG
RSA Web
Wintergreen
I Love Boobies
Coronation

Get involved, sponsor trails, email us..

TokaiMTB vehicle and tools support:

Maintaining any vehicle that spends its life carting heavy loads up and down a mountain, or responding to emergencies and ferrying broken riders around on what is arguably the roughest terrain in Cape Town, takes a special kind of support. Now, multiply that by two and you have William Simpson Nissan who not only looks after our Nissan NP300 4×4, William has also provided TokaiMTB with a second vehicle, a new Nissan Navara 4×2 that has shown it’s equally capable in this hostile terrain! None of what we do would be possible with this support, we know, we tried walking for years before we finally earned our vehicle access permit in 2012. We can confidently say that the trails would not be what they are without his generous offer to look after our vehicles.

So to the man who takes care of our most useful tools in the box, William, all the riders will agree, you’re a legend!

Dust and mud? There is plenty of that and keeping things clean is Ryan at Ryan’s Carwash, conveniently located at his Blue Route branch right here in Tokai. Ryan didn’t even hesitate to offer his help when he stuck his head in the window after stopping us on the trail, proving yet again that we really do have a generous and committed group of riders using Tokai’s trails.

Suspension is sorted too. Pimped with coil-over shocks on the 4×4, we have been able to iron out some of the bumps which we find is is particularly useful for broken collarbones. Yes, it’s not everyone’s reason for a suspension upgrade and hopefully you’ll never need to vouch for how much it helps! Thanks Mike at Star Tyres Auto Fitment in Maitland for your assistance – great service from really helpful staff!

Last but not least is Central Mica Hardware in Fish Hoek. Jan and his team are the people behind the tools we use. As STIHL agents, we rely on his maintenance of our cutters and saws because as you’ve seen, the alien vegetation in Tokai is not messing around but with Central Mica’s help, nor are we!


TokaiMTB is also looking to make a few essential upgrades to our 4×4. We’re in need of custom rails for a canopy to keep our staff dry and tools safe. Tyres also don’t last as long as we hoped they would, sharp shale and slippery clay test us to the limit on every trip but the type of tyre to live up to the job doesn’t come cheap. So if you, or someone you know is keen to help make this already capable vehicle better, please let us know at the link below.

Get involved, our 4×4, it needs you..