Cape Town's Green Point Urban Park
The Green Point Urban park opened early in 2011
What makes a visit to Cape Town bucket list worthy is not only the icon that is Table Mountain and her awe-inspiring slopes, but also the fact that this magnificence is a mere stone's throw from a vibrant and culturally-infused city. Further encouraging this fusion of business with the outdoors is the recently completed Green Point Urban Park in the heart of the cosmopolitan suburb of the same name. Here, you can dose up on nature just minutes from Cape Town City Bowl, and at the same time gain fascinating insight into the city's celebrated local biodiversity and natural and cultural heritage.
The park is in the heart of the pulsing Atlantic Seaboard, and it has been designed to not only compliment the surrounding urban environment, but to elevate it to much more than just another concrete jungle. Stand in the middle of the park and take in the spectacular 360 degree views that surround you to see how well this has been implemented.
The Green Point Urban park opened early in 2011, and it now serves as a the perfect meeting point or relaxing pit-stop between other must-see Cape Town attractions such as Table Mountain, the V&A Waterfront and the Cape Town City Bowl. There are entrances in Somerset Road and at the Mouille Point Lighthouse and, as such, the park serves as a convenient pedestrian link between Green Point’s main road, the beginning of the spectacular Atlantic Seaboard, and the ocean.
And the best part? Entrance to the park is entirely free, and picnic baskets, dogs on leashes and bicycles are all welcome.
The Design: Functional and Friendly
Urban landscapers ‘OvP’ are the driving force behind the transformation of the Green Point Urban Park, previously known as the Green Point Common. They have expertly repurposed this unused space to appeal to a wide range of interests and uses.
Many visitors find it surprising that such a large natural area still exists so close the CBD. Entering the gates for the first time certainly gives you an unexpected reward as you are instantly transported far away from the buzz of the frenetic city life into a blissful and rejuvenating public space.
Broad superbly constructed footpaths connect the ample stretches of green and glittering lakes, and the conveniently placed drinking fountains along the way cater for anyone that might be catching their breath after a game of tag. And, with all of this is set against the magnificent backdrop of the Cape Town Stadium , Mouille Point Lighthouse and Signal Hill, you won't find a better place in the city to escape.
As the park is so integrated with the built-up surrounding residential areas, its designers clearly had the city’s active population in mind too. The main footpath has one particularly long stretch ideal for a brisk stroll, with water features to the one side and a golf course on the other, which eventually connects to a running track that encircles one of the largest grassy plains.
Across from this is a brightly painted trim park, with basic workout equipment that's sure to keep your heart racing. Joggers coming from the nearby Seapoint Promenade can easily enhance their training session with a quick work out or a few laps around the track, without going out of their way, and because of this the Green Point Urban Park serves as the perfect starting and ending point for that ever-popular Promenade jaunt.
An open-air amphitheatre and fantasy play area where children can entertain themselves to their heart's desires is seamlessly connected to the main pathway. Humorous signs reading "Unsupervised children will be sold to the circus!", for example, prove that this is a place for fun, relaxation and escaping the city’s drone.
Learning about Biodiversity
A stroll through the park toward the other side will bring you to the Biodiversity Showcase Garden, which is surrounded on three sides by water. With Cape Town home to more plant species than the United Kingdom, a garden showcasing this incredible vegetation is only natural. And with the world’s biodiversity under the spotlight, this is also a wonderful way to raise awareness about some species’ endangerment.
Casually wandering through these twisting gravel paths and seeing the beautiful array of plant life up close is a pleasant alternative to books and classrooms. Nifty signs and displays next to the different plants will inform you about their origin and throw a few interesting or lesser-known facts your way. Other signs like ‘What is biodiversity?’ simplify important ecological terms, so that young and old alike can brush up on their knowledge about the issues our environment is currently facing.
Peeking-out from beneath the plants are beaded wire creatures by Streetwires and steel animals cut-outs by Roddy McGuffog. These serve to animate the garden, and are the perfect way to showcase the work of Cape Town's talented local artists. Other art can be seen in the form of a rusty metal plough, flames, and a tractor that depict the various threats the local biodiversity is facing.
Neatly tucked away in the garden you'll also find a simple yet engaging exhibition about how the Khoi Khoi used to live, which shows the three stages of how typical Khoi Khoi huts are built. This exhibition is well worth a close inspection, as there are images depicting the exact area as it looked centuries ago, when the sea was much closer and the city was unimaginable against the slopes of the mountain.
With design and creativity as the backbone of the park, it is unsurprising that Cape Town has achieved significant attention and recognition through its bid for World Design Capital 2014. The Green Point Urban Park has played a significant role in the city’s World Design Capital Bid, and it's a superb showcase for how design and nature can be implemented in a city's development plans, to create a public space that not only educates, but offers respite from daily living.
The Green Point Urban Park has truly put Cape Town in line with other first-world cities that boast pulsating green hearts in the midst of their concrete bodies, with its fresh look at how to combine sport, outdoor events and environmental education. And, if nothing else, the masterful, open-aired layout certainly makes for an inspiring Sunday afternoon stroll.