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Cleaning up the Polis campsite

By Melissa Hekkers

I had never hesitated to send friends and visitors off to Polis campsite. I myself was an avid camper until some years ago.

The trouble began when, over a long weekend, I was lying in my tent attempting to doze off, but was disturbed by the noise of rats scuttling around the water feature that ran through the campsite. It wasn’t long before we realised they weren’t only chewing on twigs and leftovers on site – the corner of our tent also seemed delightful to them, and we feared they would eventually enter our ‘safe’ haven.

At the time, we had cut the weekend short. Repercussions were such that, by the end of summer, authorities had cut down almost all the eucalyptus trees that provided the only shade, the toilets where somewhat restored to a more normal condition and the water feature was drained. It was a good start.

Yet, what seemed to go unaddressed were further ‘societal’ problems that had prevailed in the camp for years. Loud music has always been an issue, way before rats began to make the campsite their home. Drugs were another, although this also always seemed to go unaddressed.

Last year, a young girl was found dead one morning; the reasons why still being very much unclear. This year – last weekend – a 35-year-old was stabbed in the back after an argument broke out in the camp.

Since 2000, the Polis Municipality has been seeking to remove the campsite operator in order to begin a hunt for an investor to get under way. Anxious over some massive development springing up as a result, I have feared this move and, regardless of the degrading situation on location, (and not having returned since the rat incident), had turned a blind eye, in the hope that things would sort themselves out.

I am, however, no person of influence. Judging from the situation, turning a blind eye will simply not do the trick anymore. Issues have to be addressed. Before the “biggest campsite on this side of the Mediterranean”, as it’s referred to, turns into an even bigger nightmare: deal with it.

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