By Carlena Knight
Officials from the National Parks Authority (NPA) are continuing to appeal to residents, especially hikers who use the trails in the Nelson’s Dockyard area to treat the area with the utmost respect.
Heritage Resources Officer Desley Gardner spoke on the importance of these historical sites within the dockyard remaining intact so that the status of a UNESCO World Heritage site is not revoked.
According to Gardner, there have been instances where hikers have left garbage or even defaced some of the trails, and because of this she is encouraging residents to remember the value of the area.
“These hiking trails run along some of our archaeological ruins and these ruins are very important to the inscription in their current state, so I am just imploring the community and the nation to just respect the site and take care of it because this is our world heritage site and we are the ones that are in charge of it. We are responsible for it so I just want them to remember this when they are enjoying the park. It is a beautiful place. It has some of the most picturesque areas but maintain this comes with a cost and we have to really remember the value of the space when we are enjoying it,” Gardner said.
Her comments were made as the NPA hosts a week of celebrations to commemorate the July 16 2016 event when the dockyard received the inscription.
Speaking on the significance of that title was the Director of Heritage Resources at the NPA, Dr Christopher Waters.
“It requires that the site be of outstanding universal value. Something that is not just special for the nation where its located but something that is considered special for all humanity. That it’s just a special place through its culture and history and heritage that it is worth saving, protecting and highlighting. Around the world, there is only 1,400 sites and these include things that are very, very popular like the Pyramids and the Great Wall of China so, for Antigua and Barbuda to have its own world heritage site puts the dockyard and English Harbour and the country on that same level as these big sites that we may have heard of,” Dr. Waters explained.
Gardner also spoke to the other challenges the NPA faces to ensure that the area remains unscathed.
“Definitely the biggest challenge in managing a heritage site in a modern world is balancing heritage conservation and development. As a country grows, you want to see development you want to see change and for an area to stay the way it was for almost 300 years comes with its challenges. So, it’s just finding those balances and working along side our community to make sure we set the right building guidelines, we enforce the regulations of the National Parks Act and we try our best to maintain the authenticity and integrity that we speak of so much and explain it to the community. Get them as our allies in protecting the site,” she added.
Dealing with climate change, the hurricane season and raising of funds were also mentioned.
Celebrations to mark the historic occasion got off to a grand start on Sunday as visitors got the opportunity to view artwork from students at the Antigua State College (ASC) paying tribute to the lives and work of the enslaved Africans who built the dockyard.
Other activities taking place next week include the release of specially created video productions showcasing the national park, a series of educational hikes, and a night of storytelling, heritage and culture taking place on Friday.
The activities will be celebrated under the theme “From Dockyard to Shirley Heights – Celebrating Our Lives, Our People” which encapsulates the major factors that supported the campaign for the enviable UNESCO designation.