By Orville Williams
One of the staunchest advocates for the security and designation of Green Castle Hill as an environmentally-protected area is reiterating the more than decade-long appeal to the relevant authorities.
Located in Bendals, Greencastle Hill is not only a great hiking area with wonderful scenery, it is also home to some important historical treasures.
Atop the hill lie a large group of megaliths – reminiscent of Stonehenge in England – as well as the tomb of popular former Leeward Islands Governor, Oliver Ridsdale Baldwin.
Ras Dre, of Rastafari Experience Antigua – an eco-tour company created to increase awareness of the area’s significance – has long been championing the cause, alongside the Bendals community group. The problem they’re currently facing is that the Antigua Masonry Products operates a substantial mining interest in the area.
“We have been advocating for this hill since 2003 to stop its destruction, [and] we formed our company to give people an awareness of this very special place. It’s very surprising that since 1963, [Antigua] Masonry Products has been demolishing that hill, and it has been declared as a National Park. They still have [that activity] going on, with no sign of stopping,” Ras Dre said.
He added that, as expected, the mining activities have been negatively affecting the area.
“It has to have some type of environmental change if a whole land mass that was there from creation is [being] blown away. Other than the dust effects that the people in Bendals used to and still do have effects from, a lot of natural energies from the earth, for sure, have been disturbed by [the] blowing-away.
“I’m not really an environmentalist in the scientific way, but I’m sure that destroying all of that stone and blowing up the hill like that has to cause some other effects in the ecosystem. Even though we don’t have any great trees or anything up there, it’s still a lot of vegetation you’re wiping away,” Ras Dre added.
The proposed extension of the Shekerley Mountains Management Area (SMMA) – which encompasses Boggy Peak, Christian Valley, Greencastle and Wallings – as a conservation investment zone, is expected to provide some greater protection, after several failed attempts by the independent advocates to come to an arrangement with Antigua Masonry Products.
Brian Payne, an environmentalist working with the Department of the Environment on the project, said that they have made contact with the Rastafari Experience Antigua group and understand their concerns.
“I know that down there, they were very keen on protecting [the area], especially against the quarry because the quarry is cutting into the hill. Even so, Greencastle still falls within the Shekerley Mountains Management Area, which is supposed to be a protected area,” Payne explained.
The project, initiated by the Department of the Environment is fairly new, but the interested parties are hopeful that it will indeed lend substantially to the protection efforts.
Meanwhile, Ras Dre says, one good thing about the mining activities though, is that they are revealing the true nature of the megaliths.
“That’s one good thing I would say, from what [Antigua] Masonry Products is doing, it proves that the stones are coming straight from the core of the earth and protruding out of the hill, rather than that there was some ancient civilisation that set them there or carved them and put them on these displays,” he added.