Home > Ecomanagement > The Human Impact


It has been said that human beings sometimes tend to destroy the very thing that they travel to see.  Sadly, this is certainly true of the Northcliff Ridge as there is much evidence of negative human impact on the environment.


  • Previously: Vagrants were one of the biggest problems on the Ridge, and actually the most difficult one to resolve – when removed, they simply returned.  An estimated 12 to 17 vagrants live in or near the cave above Rockey Drive at any time.  Unbeknown to most, one vagrant lived in the disused pump house for over a decade.  Another couple have recently been sleeping on the Ridge, just below the water tower. Unfortunately, little support was given by the Johannesburg Metro Police, the South African Police Services (SAPS) or Johannesburg City Parks’ Park Wardens that effectively controlled vagrants.  There are no toilet facilities on the Ridge resulting in unhygienic conditions being created wherever vagrants lived.  To survive, many chopped down our national flower, the Protea, for firewood.  This also creates a fire risk to the entire Ridge.
  • Current Situation: Vagrants have been removed/relocated


  • Previously: There was evidence that the Ridge was related to high crime in the area.  This was probably because the Ridge provided adequate cover, and possibly an escape route for criminals.
  • Current Situation: Due to increased security, funded by our fundraising initiatives, crime has been reduced to almost zero. This means that the Ridge and EcoPark is safe for visitors.  If you are visiting, and notice something amiss, please contact Fairlands Police Station at (011) 478 9411 or (011) 478 9441, or use the Beagle Watch Emergency Numbers: (011) 678 2086 or  (011) 476 7811.  Alternatively, you can call Nationwide Emergency Response: 10111

Alien Vegetation

  • Previously: Alien vegetation was always a problem on the Ridge and infestations tended to be concentrated in peripheral areas. Black Wattle and Saligna above Rockey Drive further provided cover for vagrants and threatend the indigenous Proteas on the eastern ridges. Most alien plants could be traced to gardens adjoining the Ridge from which they have managed to escape. This applies to Pine trees along the northern boundary, Lantana and Seringa at the Hearn Drive hairpin bend, Sisal along Louie Avenue and Black Wattle in Rockey Drive.  After the rainy season, Blackjacks and Khaki Bush becomes a huge problem along the pathway on the cliff’s edge. These weeds grow in disturbed soil and thrive on the cliff’s flat areas denuded of natural vegetation by trampling and fire.
  • Current Situation: Control of Alien vegetation is an ongoing issue, but it is currently being managed and controlled.


  • Litter is an on-going problem on the Ridge and in the Ecopark. Since there is no controlled access to the Ecopark, many visitors bring food and drinks along but leave packaging behind. Glass is a particular problem as visitors almost always smash their empty bottles or simply throw it down the cliff face. On-going clean-ups are constantly being organised by the Ridge, the local residents and volunteers.  Johannesburg City Parks has recently supplied more bins in and around the Ecopark.


  • Graffiti used to be a permanent ‘feature’ around the car park and watertower.  At a great cost, the Ridge Committee had it removed as best they could, but it can still be seen on the large rocks along the pathway.  The defacing of the natural rocks can only be effectively curbed once sufficient access control is in force, together with the employment of permanent guards / wardens.


  • Some areas between the rocks just below the path have been denuded of vegetation because of people climbing down to sit, sleep or walk there, as well as by repeated burning.  It takes many, many years for this vegetation to recover.  It is recommended that the footpath has some mechanism, such as railings that inhibit people climbing down, except for certain areas where mountaineering enthusiasts can enjoy their sport.


  • Whereas parts of the Ridge were burnt every few years in the past, more recently the entire Ridge has been burnt every year. Arson is a common occurrence and the Ecopark neighbours maintain regular firebreaks next to their properties. Johannesburg City Parks have made firebreaks in the past, but these were unfortunately in the wrong places and therefore, completely ineffective. City Parks are deploying a new fire break program, as requested by the Ridge Committee.