by Carlena Knight
A call has been made for the general public to take better care of one of the country’s treasured tourism attractions.
Executive Director Refica Attwood made the proclamation while speaking on the Observer AM showon Thursday, following the news that the Wallings Nature Reserve is one of two local spots vying for Best Caribbean Attraction in the 2022 USA Today Readers’ Choice Awards.
The annual awards include the most popular places to eat, things to see, and places to go and stay in the US and around the world.
Over the past few years, the team at the Wallings Nature Reserve have been working to rehabilitate and mark the hiking trails which pass through Antigua and Barbuda’s lush rainforest.
But according to Attwood, it is quite frustrating when visitors leave garbage, remove signs or even damage some of the plants that her team have been working so hard to grow to enhance the area.
She said while visitors are free to eat the fruit, some are going a step further and removing plants too.
“We have no problem that when you get to the top of the hill and you want to eat the fruit from the trees, have a party, if you want to live under the trees, we do not care because we would have taken out an invasive species that is damaging the forest and putting in something.
“Rather than persons embracing the change they are damaging the plants.
“They don’t understand that we have to hike from the base, carry the plants up the hill, dig the holes and plant, and for them to just be walking up and down on the plants, pulling up plants is ridiculous,” Attwood said.
She added that persons need to have more pride in preserving the area as there have already been positive impacts for the country through the nature attraction. The long-term impact, she said, would be even greater.
Established in 2018, Wallings Nature Reserve is a community-managed national park in the Wallings Forest area.
The major reforestation project on Signal Hill which began last year remains underway. This project has seen the team remove invasive lemongrass and replace it with a variety of flowers and fruit trees.
While attention is being placed on the competition, Attwood disclosed that work is presently underway at the nature reserve with additional trails set to come on stream and the clean-up of the reservoir completed.
“We’ve put in a road where you walk from the building that is there walking all the way around the reservoir coming back onto the trails. We will be putting some additional signage. The swing that everybody is familiar with, unfortunately the branch broke so we have to find another location for that,” Attwood said.
“At Signal Hill, when we are finished with reforestation efforts, we are going to have a campsite there, so that persons can camp overnight. We are going to have hammocks, picnic benches, you are going to be able to sun tan on the rocks.”
Attwood disclosed that the goal is to ensure the area remains one of the top Caribbean attractions in the coming years.
“We hope that in the next few years Wallings Nature Reserve becomes one of those locations that persons make it their business to visit because you have options. The building that is there, in a few years, we will be opening up a Caribbean restaurant so persons can come in a secluded spot to have food,” Attwood added.
Nominations for the USA Today Readers’ Choice Awards are initially selected by a panel of travel experts who nominate their 20 favourite places and then the public is given the opportunity to choose a winner.
Voting opened recently and concludes on February 25. Persons can vote by logging on to Vote- Best Caribbean Attraction Nominees: 2022 10Best Readers’ Choice Travel Awards. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Nelson’s Dockyard has also been nominated. Both attractions are currently ranked among the top few favourites in the leader board.