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​Rotunda Park gets a 12-hour Xtreme Makeover

Turffontein’s Rotunda Park, one of the oldest parks in Johannesburg, has been given an Xtreme Makeover.
On Thursday morning, Johannesburg City Parks & Zoo Managing Director Bulumko Nelana, his executive team, 500 employees and volunteers toiled in the rain to breathe new life into the 10-hectare park – building flower beds, laying the lawn, planting indigenous trees, installing new outdoor gym equipment and painting playground equipment – in their race to successfully complete their self-imposed 12-hour challenge.

“Today’s activities cost R200 000 but the total budget that has gone into breathing new life into this park is R6 million,” said Nelana.

“The aim of the Xtremepark Makeover initiative is to fast-track the establishment of outdoor recreational facilities in high-density areas, while rehabilitating public spaces showing symptoms of illegal dumping, littering, vandalism and vagrancy. The whole exercise was aimed at revitalising Turffontein, really.

“The reason City Parks & Zoo specifically chose this park is because Turffontein has been earmarked for redevelopment as part of the Corridors of Freedom strategy of turning Joburg into an economically inclusive and vibrant African city in which residents live and play near their places of work and schools,” Nelana said.

The park now boasts a new skateboard court, an astro-turf mini soccer field, revamped netball and tennis courts, a state-of-the-art children’s play area complete with rubberised surfaces, a fitness track and picnic shelters. The park’s gym area and gym equipment as well as the cycling space have been enlarged and modernised. The park is home to some of the oldest trees in the city.

Nelana said the XtremePark Makeover would not only rejuvenate the park and create employment but would also lead to further development to attract investors.

“We urge the community of Turffontein to take ownership of the park. Research has shown that sedentary lifestyles lead people to early graves. We urge the residents to make full use of the park facilities and guard it jealously to keep vandals at bay,” Nelana said.

He said some of the cooperatives registered under the Jozi@Work campaign would be contracted to maintain Rotunda Park and other parks across the city. Unemployed resident Dimakatso Tsotetsi was happy about the park’s makeover.

“This makes me happy. Now children can get off the streets and have a safe place to play. Even old people like us can use the outdoor gym but city officials must be on hand to guide us and ensure we don’t hurt ourselves. There is no scrapyard for old bones like us.”

Situated south of the Johannesburg CBD, Turffontein is an area rich in history. Founded as a tented camp during the gold rush and subsequently viewed as a working-class area about a century ago, the suburb today comprises a rich cosmopolitan mix of residents. In 1889, Walter Casey laid out a section of Turffontein for a circular park – Rotunda Park.

Not far from Rotunda Park is one of the oldest buildings in the area, the Turffontein Fire Station, built in 1910.