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Transforming Zoo Lake One Clean-Up at a Time

Zoo Lake, a cherished oasis in Johannesburg, owes its origin to banker and mining magnate Herman Eckstein. In the late 19th century, Eckstein envisioned a lush city oasis, initially naming it Sachsenwald after Otto von Bismarck’s estate. After his death, his partners donated land to the Johannesburg City Council in 1904, leading to the creation of Herman Eckstein Park and a zoo. In 1906, an artificial lake, aptly named Zoo Lake, was added, becoming its centrepiece. The Coronation Fountain was added in 1937 to honour King George VI and Queen Elizabeth’s coronation and remains a famous landmark of Johannesburg.

Over the years, Zoo Lake has evolved into a vibrant hub for community gatherings, sporting events, and cultural celebrations. Its sprawling lawns provide ample space for picnics. In recent years, Zoo Lake has faced the challenge of litter, a common issue in many public spaces.

Stuart Norman, a Chartered client, has lived in Parkview for 17 years. Like many residents, his busy life prevented him from doing more than just using the park for recreational walks and bike rides.

One day recently, while walking around Zoo Lake, Stuart was struck by the amount of litter everywhere. Stuart had an idea and was determined to make a difference. He had been so impressed by the cleanliness of Rwanda on a recent trip, and he was convinced that if Rwanda could be cleaned up after its turbulent history, surely Zoo Lake could be cleaned up too.

Stuart’s initiative took flight when he reached out to a residents’ group, inquiring about the availability of a skip for an upcoming clean-up effort he had planned. The response was overwhelmingly positive, prompting him to establish a dedicated WhatsApp group exclusively for residents eager to rejuvenate Zoo Lake. Stuart then forged a partnership with the Zoo Lake Users Committee, setting the wheels in motion for their inaugural clean-up event.

The event was a success, with 13 paid staff and four volunteers participating. They filled 155 bags of rubbish, waste and glass. The second clean-up was even larger and more successful, collecting 210 bags of litter. It’s important to note that these clean-ups are not focused solely on picking up the litter left behind, as the council already employs staff for this purpose. Rather, the emphasis lies on revitalising the general area, the lawns and the lake itself. To clean the lake, volunteers are equipped with pool nets, allowing them to retrieve discarded bottles and plastic from the water.

Stuart has managed to raise R19,000 in donations to date, and local businesses have stepped in to help. The money raised is used to provide lunch and refreshments for staff and volunteers, buy equipment needed and pay the staff hired to help with the clean-up. Several of the individuals employed to clean the lake reside in nearby shelters and appreciate an extra day of work and pay.

Stuart is committed to making Zoo Lake a clean and beautiful place for everyone to enjoy. He believes that the key to sustainability is to have a long-term strategy. Stuart’s vision extends to involving all the suburbs around Zoo Lake, mirroring the successful approach that transformed Central Park into the beloved destination it is today. You can’t help feeling inspired by Stuart’s story as it really proves that change begins with you and that you need to be the change you want to see in the world.

If you would like to know more about the project or get involved, you can contact Stuart on 0825572706

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