Wilderness Beach launches Pilot Blue Flag

Wilderness Beach today (3 December 2019) hoisted its Pilot Blue Flag for the 2019/20 season during a short ceremony at the beach in front of Salina’s Restaurant.

The beach incorporates jurisdiction of SANParks, Garden Route District Municipality and George Municipality. The Blue Flag is a joint project of these roleplayers, with major involvement of Salina’s Restaurant, which overlooks Wilderness beach, and with the support of the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (Wessa) that manages the Blue Flag Programme in South Africa. It is the second consecutive year the beach has Pilot Blue Flag status since Garden Route District Municipality re-applied for the accolade. Wilderness had full status in previous years but skipped application in 2017 due to administrative changes at the District Municipality.

Wilderness Blue Flag beach
From left are SANParks Wilderness representative Carel van der Merwe, Executive Deputy Mayor Charlotte Clarke and Garden Route District Municipality Executive Mayor Alderman Memory Booysen

Addressing roleplayers at the ceremony this morning, Garden Route District Municipality Head of Disaster Management Gerhard Otto said the roleplayers had hoped that Wilderness Beach would earn full Blue Flag status this year, but new changes in the WESSA Blue Flag Beach requirements had not made it impossible on short notice. “Salina’s had in the past made its disabled toilets available to disabled beachgoers, which was sufficient in the past to qualify, but this is no longer the case. The George Municipality has already allocated funding for such upgrades at the public toilets located in the parking area at the beach, but the implementation of these upgrades was unfortunately outside the Blue Flag application timeframe. We believe this will be resolved next year and expect that Wilderness will have full Blue Flag status for the 2020/21 season,” said Mr Otto.

Garden Route District Mayor Alderman Memory Booysen said the Pilot Blue Fag certificate ensured close scrutiny of beach management standards such as water quality, public safety, facility management, the provision of quality services, environmental management and commitment towards environmental education and information. “I am confident we can attain full Blue Flag status and together reap the fruits of the programme’s inherent benefits for many years to come,” said Mr Booysen.

George Municipality Ward Councillor for Wilderness, Marlene Barnardt thanked the many roleplayers and complimented by name Salina’s Restaurant owner Massimo Mariotti for his involvement and sited his role as a stellar example of the private sector working with local government and others for the greater good of the community. “

Selina’s Restaurant owner Massimo Mariotti said patrons often commented on the presence of a Blue Flag. “National and international tourists recognise the benefits associated with the Blue Flag and we believe it is very important for tourism in our village and on the Garden Route to have this accolade,” said Mr Mariotti.

The Blue Flag season in Wilderness runs from 1 December 2019 to 31 January 2020. Compliance includes high standards of water quality monitoring, public safety and lifeguard services, and well-maintained coastal amenities.

South Africa has participated in the Blue Flag programme since 2001. Blue Flag is an international coastal management programme that accredits beaches that meet standards of excellence in water quality, environmental management, environmental education and information as well as safety and services. The Blue Flag programme offers many benefits: improved tourism facilities, enhanced management of coastal ecosystems, increased awareness of the coast and capacity building of coastal municipalities. In South Africa, the programme is implemented by the Wildlife Environmental Society of South Africa (WESSA).