December 18, 2009
EU Project Officer hands over Botanic Gardens

The Botanic Gardens, the flagship tourism site in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, was handed over to the government with new and improved features earlier this week.

The site, which is over 240 years old, was handed over at a ceremony on Tuesday, December 15, 2009.{{more}}

The Gardens is one of the 14 sites which were enhanced by the European Union funded Ministry of Tourism, Tourism Development Project. The Botanic Gardens, a protected national heritage site, has a variety of trees, plants and birdlife, and is the oldest botanical gardens in the Western Hemisphere.

Giving opening remarks at the ceremony, Director of National Parks, Rivers and Beaches Authority Andrew Wilson listed several of the improvements of the Gardens.

The Gardens entrance has been relocated to the original gate at the southern end of the site. The current entrance just above the Central Water and Sewage Authority office will become the exit.

Other site developments, Wilson said, include the creation of a gazebo with seating, the construction of new rest room facilities, the repair of the bridge, improvements to the drainage system and to the visitor booths. The original curator’s house is also being renovated.

Wilson, speaking on the historical significance of the Gardens, stated that it was once the horticultural hub of the Western Hemisphere. He added that when it was established in 1765, it also provided medicinal plants and improved the life and the economy of the colony at that time. The Gardens, he said, also played a role in the distribution of plants regionally and internationally.

Giving brief remarks at the ceremony, EU Project Officer Bo Hjalmefjord declared that the EU will continue to support the Tourism sector in St.Vincent and the Grenadines. Hjalmefjord mentioned that there are other projects in the works that the EU and the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines will collaborate on. These include the opening of a Tourism and Marine hospitality centre, creation of a walking park in Villa, and access roads to the tourism sites. Hjalmeford added that the new, improved tourism sites will provide long-term benefits to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Giving the Feature address, Minister for Tourism Glen Beache declared the site as the most important tourism site in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, mainly because of its historical significance. Beache expressed that Tourism does not get the recognition it deserves and said that it must be recognized more as it is what sustains the economy.

Beache added that there is a need for change in the operations of the site, which he says has remained stagnant for too long. “It needs some jazzing up…and I’m not only speaking about the vegetation. I’m speaking about the staff,” he said.

Beache that there was a certain attitude toward government employees that must be changed. “A lot of us tend to get away with things working for the government that we would usually not get away with when working in the private sector,” Beache said. He added that persons have already been dismissed from the South Windward constituency and those who do not perform as they should, disciplinary action will be taken.

Minister for Culture and Parliamentary representative for the area René Baptiste also gave remarks during the ceremony. Members of the Botanic Gardens staff and officials from the Tourism Authority and the Ministry of Tourism were also present. (OS)