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New south gate entrance to Botanic Gardens

New south gate entrance to Botanic Gardens

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The main entrance of the Botanic Gardens has been relocated to the south gate, opposite the Kingstown Baptist Church at Old Montrose.{{more}}

Director of National Parks Andrew Wilson, however, said users of the Gardens will be given a grace period, and allowed to enter through the west gate, until the end of the month, to allow for the message to get out.

The change back to the original entrance took effect on November 14, and the west gate, which formerly served as the entrance, is now the exit.

In an interview on Saturday, Wilson told SEARCHLIGHT the decision to revert to the original entrance was taken, as it allows for a better appreciation and interpretation of the historic site, which is the most visited tourist site in the country.

He also said that since the entrance was moved to the west gate some years ago, the lower one-third of the Gardens had been neglected, and considerable work had to be put in to get it back up to an acceptable standard.

Wilson said the most challenging aspect of the decision to move the entrance back to the southern gate was the issue of finding parking for persons who come to the site in private vehicles.

He said several options for parking had been considered, but even though none of these options worked out, the National Parks went ahead with the change, as the advantages of the relocation outweigh the disadvantages.

The Director said all persons visiting the Gardens will now be required to use the south gate to enter, except those visiting the nursery to buy plants. Tour buses will drop off their passengers at the south gate, then proceed to the parking lot near to the west gate, through which the passengers will exit.

A new reception area, which contains basic information on the history and main features of the 246-year-old recreation site, has been set up near to the south gate. The reception area will be open from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. seven days a week. Wilson hopes that, eventually, the reception area will be open from 6:00 a.m., to coincide with the time the Gardens opens.

For the time being, no fees will be charged for accessing the site, as the proposed fees have not yet been approved by Cabinet or made law. Wilson said at some recreation sites around the country, fees are charged for using specific facilities such as the washrooms, but this has not yet been put in place at the Gardens.

The Director said an advertisment for tenders, for the use of the former reception area as a gift shop and cafeteria, has been published in local newspapers.

“The idea is that when you enter through the south gate and exit at the west gate, there will be a gift shop, cafeteria, souvenir outlet there. This is the next thing that we will be hoping to get going, but that will be through a private operation.”

The relocation to the southern gate also allows for better control of tour guides, in relation to overcharging and harassment of visitors, Wilson said.

All persons visiting the Gardens will be required to go through the reception area, where they will be greeted by visitor attendants employed by the National Parks Authority.

These attendants will brief the visitors, giving them basic information, and if a tour guide is needed, one will be assigned.

Additionally, uniformed security guards, carrying identification cards, are now in place at the site.

“We are trying to get the overall standard improved,” Wilson said.

He also shared that a concerted effort is also being made to have all tour guides operating at the site trained and certified under a national programme.

Wilson disclosed that since the National Parks took over the running of the Gardens in April 2010, they have been trying to work on improving the site’s overall appearance.

“We have an interim seven point landscape upgrade plan that we are working on right now, Wilson said.

He said implementation of the plan started since last year, but Hurricane Tomas, which hit St. Vincent on October 30 2010, put plans on hold, as a significant number of plants were damaged, and the National Parks had to go into “recovery mode”.

“We have actually started some replanting and replacement of hedges and plants. During the next couple months, we will be phasing out some of the plants, trying to replant some. What has happened too, over the years, that people probably may not recognise, is that there have been interventions, in that there have been plants planted in the Gardens which have not been the correct choice of plant, or they may have been planted too close to other plants. So we are trying to correct some of those issues,” he said.

Wilson said work has already been done around the Doric Temple and the pond and will continue in other areas, including the periphery hedges, and the centre aisle. New species will be put in to add more colour and variety.

“There are different things that will take place over time, but we are constrained by resources, so although we try to do things, we try to do them within specific periods,” Wilson said.

He also mentioned that an intensive training programme to upgrade the skills of the landscaping staff will begin soon.

“…We have to constantly retrain and retool the workers.”

Plans are also in place do some some upgrade of the nursery in terms of the variety, quality and quantity of plants.

The St. Vincent Botanic Gardens is the oldest in the New World. It was started in 1765, a mere two years after the British gained a firm foothold on St. Vincent.

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