Very few would have thought that a bushy and overgrown den for criminals would one day turn be turned into an oasis of peace, where young and old can congregate to workout (gym) and enjoy themselves.
But that is exactly what happened to Beacon Park, which is located between Hillside Road and Sarnia Road in Sea View, about 10 kilometres south of the Durban city centre
Once a criminal hotspot, now it is an oasis of peace and a beacon of hope, a place which community members can use as a place to gym, to do yoga, aerobics and to play.
This was made possible by an investment in excess of R1 million by leading construction materials company, AfriSam.
The revamp and upgrade of Beacon Park included installing swings and see-saws, an outdoor gym facility, tables and benches and fencing around the entire perimeter of the park. The completion of the park revamp was delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown.
After some delay due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the park was opened in September 2020 during a Covid-safe fun-fare event that included stakeholders from the eThekwini Municipality, Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, AfriSam representatives, and members of the community. It was opened after the government had relaxed some of the Covid-19 hard lockdown restrictions.
It is a world class facility with gym and recreational equipment, including push and pull chairs, recumbent bike, double ski, parallel bar, surf board, triple space walker, Taiji wheel, double rowing machine, mountain climber, 4 person twist station, wab board, single leg extension, horse rider, frog kick butterfly machine, scaling ladder and weight lift. It also has several swings, five braai stand areas and table chairs where parents can sit while watching their kids training.
The area is also big enough to hold aerobic and yoga classes.
The eThekwini Municipality manages and maintains the park on behalf of the community, also providing a caretaker and a team that trims the lawn, clean the gym facility and generally ensures that the facility remains in a spick and span condition.
The communities of Sea View and surrounding areas have welcomed the existence of the park. It caters for both young kids and adults and has engendered healthy habits.
52-year-old Martina Kokwana, of Yellowwood Park, drives for seven minutes to Beacon Park with her son Andile (16) for workouts in the park.
“Before I used to run on the road and workout at home. Now I come here. On Saturday morning I also come for aerobic classes,” she said.
Her son Andile, is a striker for Yellowwood Park Super Stars, who dreams of playing soccer in one of the top leagues in Europe.
“The gym helps me to gain strength and stamina. I train everyday so that I can realise my goal. This gym is extremely helpful, and it has all the equipment I need to get in shape,” he said.
His sentiments were echoed by many others who were at the gym. Okuhle Jumba, is a 14-year-old Grade 9 pupil and an avid athlete who participates in 80 metres, 100-metres, 1 200-metres, and cross-country athletic competition.
Her home is about five minutes’ walk from the Beacon Park gym.
“I used to train in South Beach (about 10 km away), which was costly and time consuming. Now I come here without paying a cent. In the past, we feared passing here because the paras (thugs) were mugging people. Now, I not only feel safe here in the park, but I also use it to enhance my fitness levels, which is good,” she said.
Every weekday afternoon Zandile Mnguni (43), of Sarnia, walks her nephew Tyson Frank (8) who is deaf and mute to the park. While her nephew uses the gym equipment to keep himself busy, she sits on the tables and chairs and chat with family and friends on her smartphone, while also keeping close watch on him.
“My nephew enjoys it here,” she said.
She and other regulars said the only snag is that the park closes at 4pm and this does not allow workers to use it when they come back from their jobs.
Sebastian Nasan, a senior manager in eThekwini Municipality’s park and recreation division, said they are planning to increase the working hours of the Beacon Park so that it is accessible to more people.
He said the municipality is also planning to develop ablution facilities, a storeroom, and an office in the unused part of the park.
Senzi Mabaso, AfriSam’s community development specialist, said the company is pleased with the success of this and other community development projects that the company has been involved in the past few years.
She said before embarking on the Beacon Park revamping programme, AfriSam went to the community to do research on how to alleviate crime while also bringing people together, promoting healthy living and keeping young minds busy.
“The success of Beacon Park makes us proud as AfriSam because it shows that we are on the right direction. We are also proud of the community for taking care of our project and making sure that it is used properly to fight drug use and crime and bring families together and, more importantly, to enhance healthy living by bringing free gyms to the community,” she said.
Mabaso said there are many similar AfriSam sponsored community gyms in areas like Verulam and they are also planning another one in Hillary, in Queensburgh because these facilities “make a difference in the quality of life of a community.”