Bench in honour of ‘brains behind the park’

A bench plaque was unveiled at the Green Point Urban Park last Friday, February 22, in memory of the late Pete van Heerden.

Friends, family and colleagues gathered at the Green Point Urban Park for the unveiling of a bench to honour the brains behind the park, the late Pete van Heerden.

Mr Van Heerden, who lived in Claremont, passed away in October last year after he underwent heart surgery.

Colleagues described him as a special man who had an interest in many topics. Landscape architect and designer of the urban park, Johan van Papendorp, said he was fortunate to get to know Mr Van Heerden professionally and socially.

“One thing that I found interesting about him was his love for birds. He’d be able to tell you the difference between an African Eagle or white-breasted eagle by simply listening to them making sounds, he’d then go in great detail explaining why its mouth is like that and expand on the colours.”

Mr Papendorp said Mr Van Heerden had a diverse education but he found his purpose and direction when he joined the City in 1992 as a spatial planner.

“He participated in and often led a wide range of projects changing the face of the city to make it a better place for all,” he said.

Mr Papendorp said Mr Van Heerden prepared a framework plan for Green Point Urban Park around 1998.

“That was way before there were talks about the stadium in this area. The Common was really not common at all. The sports fields weren’t public domain, they were not spaces for the public.”

He said in 2004 when South Africa was awarded the bid to host the 2010 Fifa World Cup there was a lot of jubilation and a lot of preparation was required.

“It took another two years before Cape Town got the green light and they finally agreed that the stadium should be here. There was a lot of discontent. There were a lot of objections to it and Pete was appointed as the technical coordinator, and it was quite a huge task with many challenges. He guided the team, worked through the negativity and the results can be seen today.”

Mr Papendorp said Helen Zille was then still the mayor and she said if there’s going to be a stadium here, that must be the catalyst to provide some public area in the Common.

“We only started on the construction in 2008, Pete was very set on the process of public participation. He put a lot of emphasis on that and believed that the public had to be consulted because they were taxpayers.

He went on road shows in different parts of Cape Town from Atlantis to Gordon’s Bay, Khayelitsha to Parow, telling the public about the dream that was the urban park,” said Mr Papendorp. He said Mr Van Heerden was involved and invested in the project from the design process. “We had many debates about this because we didn’t want an English little garden or Kirstenbosch, we wanted something that would be accessible to everyone,” he said.

“Pete, you have done a hell of a job, you led us through this process and we’ll remember you for the work that you’ve done,” Mr Papendorp said.

The bench was officially unveiled by the City’s principal spatial planner, Nigel Titus, who joked that in every meeting that they had, Mr Van Heerden would always end up talking about the Green Point Urban Park.

He said the City did consider planting a tree in memory of Mr Van Heerden in the park, but because of the water crisis, they opted for the bench.

“He had a unique passion for the urban park for which we’re thankful for as the City,” he said.