Zooming along a toboggan track or zipline, sunset concerts and light shows, mountain bike and running trails, nature walks and public art – these are among the proposals on the table to transform Happy Valley into a safe, fun, eco-friendly family destination for locals and visitors. About 50 local role-players in tourism, heritage and the built environment participated in an online stakeholder engagement session with the Mandela Bay Development Agency (MBDA) on 29 November to give their input into the adventure park and nature reserve proposed for Happy Valley.
Happy Valley forms part of the 55ha “green lung” stretching from the old EP rugby stadium to the sea, and incorporating Bayworld, under development by the MBDA. The process was kick-started earlier this week with the first phase of demolition of condemned buildings on the Bayworld site.
The aim is to create a green mixed-use development to conserve and promote the region’s unique biodiversity and cultural heritage, featuring green spaces and eco-friendly and adventure activities, along with appropriate commercial activities, in a safe and diversified destination for locals and tourists, said MBDA spokesperson Luvuyo Bangazi.
“Bayworld, the oceanarium and Happy Valley have been part of our tourism story for generations. Now we need to combine and unleash their full potential for the next generations,” Bangazi said. PE Metro Bed & Breakfast Association chair Shena Wilmot said Happy Valley had “beautiful bones” on which to develop diverse uses, and urged that development included contemplative spaces to honour and reflect on Nelson Mandela’s legacy.
“Madiba needs to be better represented in the city that bears his name,” Wilmot said. Many of the participants emphasised the need to prioritise safety and cleaning, while other ideas put forward included a mini-tram to traverse between attractions and activities across the precinct, and linking Happy Valley to Humewood Beach and the “six pillars” for underwater activities.
The traditional festive season displays and lighting should be retained, said tourism specialist Doné Louw, but be redesigned to tell “the stories of the Bay rather than Disney”, and lighting and garden displays should be changed with the seasons to provide reasons to visit Happy Valley year-round. An open-air bird park, a 5-biome nature park, interaction of land and water, public art and performances, markets, restaurants and tea gardens, sports events, adventure trails and climbing facilities were among further ideas put forward. Discover Mandela Bay project manager Shaun van Eck urged the developers to pursue interactive and unique experiences that allowed visitors to immerse themselves in the diverse heritage and culture of the Bay.
“Experiences – immersive, emotional and personal – are key to the tourism of the future. We have our own DNA of Nelson Mandela Bay and it is those stories we must tell. What is uniquely local and found nowhere else is what will create our competitive advantage,” Van Eck said. MBDA senior project manager Dorelle Sapere said there were already several proposals for activities in Happy Valley and surrounds, but the agency was seeking further proposals and partnerships, particularly for “sustainable projects that will create and sustain substantial job creation”.
“This is a phenomenal development that will change the face of the beachfront and put us back on the tourism map,” said Ward 2 councillor Renaldo Gouws in opening the discussion session. Noting that the population of the beachfront ward can swell from 30 000 to over 100 000 on a summer’s day, Gouws said the revitalisation of Happy Valley would benefit the entire metro, not only in having an excellent attraction but in job creation and economic spin-offs as well.
Sapere said feasibility studies on development of the entire 55ha Bayworld precinct, which includes over 40 000m2 of commercial land, indicated potential investment of over R6 billion in construction and creation of more than 23 000 jobs in the operation of the various activities. The agency is currently seeking funding and investment for 13 catalytic projects planned to stimulate further activity and investment in the precinct, likely to be operated in a combination of private concessions, public-private partnerships and public sector management.