Post-industrial urban quarries as places of recreation and the new wilderness – a South African perspective

  • Piet Vosloo University of Pretoria, South Africa
Keywords: Derelict land, legislative frameworks, outdoor recreation, post-industrial urban sites, quarries, wilderness


The objective of this article is threefold: To re-evaluate the concept of wilderness as a place to be experienced by human beings as part of their outdoor recreational needs; to investigate if reclaimed post-industrial urban quarries can fulfil these needs, and to investigate the legislative frameworks in South Africa within which such reclamation and re-use can be undertaken. The objective is not to present detailed case studies of post-industrial urban quarries that have been rehabilitated or redeveloped for a different land use, but rather to demonstrate the potential of such quarries. The majority of South Africa’s population is urbanised and has hardly any prospect, due to various constraints, of ever visiting natural or even ‘man-made wilderness’ areas for recreational purposes. The currently held concept of wilderness is critically evaluated and the need to change our perception of wilderness is discussed. The biophysical and socio-economic nature, as well as the legal framework, within which the redevelopment potential of our ubiquitous post-industrial urban quarries must be viewed, are examined to determine whether they can be reclaimed as outdoor recreation places and a new ‘urban wilderness’. It is shown, through a literature review and examining five case studies, that reclaimed quarries can satisfy urban dwellers’ innate need for outdoor recreational spaces and natural or wilderness areas, albeit man-made and despite the procedural challenges posed by the requirements of the South African regulatory urban spatial planning frameworks and Acts.


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