|Bird Rock Point park to open soon on Provo|
|Thursday, 12 May 2011 10:07|
Years in the making, development of Bird Rock Point Cultural and Historic Education Centre is finally about to break ground, thanks to the National Trust and helpful funding from the European Union.
The centre will feature hiking trails, a native nursery, campgrounds and a visitors’ center for tourists and residents to enjoy on Providenciales.
The trust has for years been working passionately on preserving the cultural heritage of the Turks and Caicos Islands, including the natural environment. Ethlyn Gibbs-Williams, executive director of the National Trust, and her team have been tirelessly fighting to ensure the history is not only available but fostered for future generations to know and appreciate.
“Our habitat is not being taken seriously,” Gibbs-Williams told Providenciales Chamber of Commerce members at their May 2 meeting. “We do have a unique product, but if we are not careful to convey this message … we cannot ensure we will have this product many years from now.”
A major breakthrough for the trust, which has suffered the same budget cutting fate of all other government departments, was securing funding from the European Union in September to push forward its strategic plan for enhancing the heritage of the TCI. The focal point of the trust’s future plans will be 111 acres at Bird Rock Point on the eastern most tip of Providenciales.
Over the next 18 months, the trust will turn Bird Rock Point into a true nature reserve, with a sanctuary and areas set aside for picnicking, camping and other recreational and commercial activities which will contribute to the sustainability of the venture. In the second year of the project, the trust hopes to complete construction of its educational resource facility which will also serve as a visitor centre in this area.
“I hope people will appreciate this side of our heritage by families taking children to the park, learning more about the flora and fauna native to the Turks and Caicos,” she said.
Another particular joy for Gibbs-Williams is the plan to develop a Heritage Field which will include a native garden. “We want to encourage developers and home owners to use the native fauna.”
The trust is currently evaluating the designs for the project, and as soon as those are approved, the hiking trails will be opened. Along the trails will be outdoor exhibits which will showcase the TCI lifestyles of the 19th and 20th centuries.
Beyond the Bird Rock Point project, the trust is also using part of the EU funds for other much needed infrastructure that will promote and encourage sustainable use of Protected Areas, which include national parks, nature reserves, sanctuaries and areas of historic interest. The spinoffs will create job opportunities for Turks and Caicos Islanders.
Gibbs-Williams said she would like to see more young people getting involved in conservation management. The trust has recently embarked on some new projects within the high schools to get them involved in preserving the heritage of the country.
“We don’t just want them to know about it, but appreciate it, appreciate where we come from,” she said. “Yes, we have beaches … but there is also a culture and a history.”
Construction of a modest and appropriate visitor lounge for Little Water Cay (Iguana Island) Nature Reserve is also planned.
The Cheshire Hall Plantation site on Providenciales will also be getting an upgrade, with a visitor centre and general enhancement, including trails, landscaping and interpretative material through this special project.
The community of Kew on North Caicos and the wider community of the TCI stand to benefit in the short- and long-term from the redevelopment of the Wade’s Green Plantation, another activity within the three-year project. This particular heritage site will also receive a visitor lounge, enhancement to field roads, restructuring of the maintenance programme, additional interpretative panels and literature as well as redesigning of the guided tour.
At the completion of the project, the TCI and the National Trust would have benefitted from more than $1.3 million.
The National Trust will also benefit this year from a newly formed partnership with the Tourism Department. The board has signed on to support the ventures of the trust, creating tourist attractions that showcase the history of the country and its native people.
Gibbs-Williams says the trust can benefit from more such partnerships, and she hopes that when people start to see vision, more will come on board to help.
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The fp is publishing a series of articles on the Turks and Caicos Islands Protected Area System to increase public awareness and respect for the beauty and value of this "beautiful by nature" country.
The authors, marine ecologist Marsha Pardee and terrestrial ecologist Kathleen Wood, are long-time TCI residents and respected scientists in their fields.
Below are links to their articles, plus related news articles, documents and laws.
- 29/7/10: Chalk Sound National Park: Beauty and ecology
- 22/7/10: Protected Areas designations and differences
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Links to environmental documents and laws