Rhianna Mc Kenzie
After announcing the closure of the Asa Wright Nature Centre on Monday, vice chairman of the board Marina Narinesingh said on Thursday the conservation and research efforts of the centre will continue.
The centre had announced its closure owing to covid19 restrictions and the closure of borders limiting visitors.
While the visitors’ lodge and hospitality centre will no longer be open to the public, Narinesingh said the centre will continue to pursue its conservation and research efforts as best as it can.
“That’s part of our transition,” she said.
“We’d be looking into external funding – grant funding – to engage in projects and continue our conservation and research.”
She said when the centre opened in 1967, the team understood the unique ecological value of the land and the need to preserve it.
“It was internationally known…and that hasn’t stopped.”
She said the way in which conservation will continue may be different, especially in terms of funding, as the board will now be seeking assistance for those projects.
Narinesingh said the centre has received support from volunteers, friends, and donors since announcing its closure.
“The state has reached out to us, which is great news. It will help protect our lands and our assets.”
She said corporate bodies have also contacted them.
“The support so far has been fantastic. I think corporate TT and stakeholders understand what a gem the centre is, and right now we are thankful for all the support.”
She said the board – comprised of 20 to 24 members, both national and international – is in the process of assessing the state of the property to work out programmes to maintain the grounds during the closure.
“It has only been a few days, but nature takes effect quickly…We have approximately 1,500 acres of land.”
The centre is just one of the estates owned by Asa Wright which the public is most familiar with. Narinesingh said the estate extends into the Arima Valley and the Aripo Valley as well.
She also addressed the issue of quarrying in the area, which has been encroaching on the site.
“One of our parcels of land has been affected by quarrying operators.”
She said the matter is currently in court, but there are new owners of the quarry who have been respecting boundaries.
“We will continue to monitor those lands and reach out to the Ministry of Energy and its mineral division to assist us in monitoring the lands.
“We take a very strong position against trespassers and people encroaching on our land.”
Narinesingh said about 42 of the centre’s workers have been let go.
Newsday received reports that some workers were complaining of being treated unfairly by the centre.
“It was a very difficult decision for us,” Narinesingh said. “We reached to a point where we really had no other alternative.”
She said she understood that people were upset by the decision.
“People lost their jobs. It is natural that they would be disgruntled (but) it was not a decision we took on a whim.”
Narinesingh said the board will continue to work with stakeholders on becoming a more resilient organisation.
“We are in the process of reinventing ourselves.
“I can’t say what it would look like in the future, but I imagine part of that would be public access to these beautiful grounds, to come and sit on the veranda again and drink rum punches.”