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Nash – An entrance fee will help in upkeep of the gardens

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Visitors to the Botanic Gardens may soon see the introduction of entrance fees to the site.{{more}}

This proclamation was made by Chairman of the National Parks, Rivers and Beaches Authority Gideon Nash, as he addressed a ceremony to launch the activities for the restoration of the Botanic Gardens on Monday, February 6, ahead of its 250th anniversary in 2015.

Speaking at the ceremony, which took place in the restored curator’s house in the gardens, which previously housed a museum, Nash announced that the Authority’s board was awaiting approval by Cabinet and gazetting of a proposed fee structure.

“Finance is definitely a big challenge, and we can maintain this restoration work that we are embarking upon by charging a small fee upon entrance to the Botanic Gardens. It is my conviction that more could have been done with regard to the upkeep of the gardens if we were charging a small fee, to supplement government subvention. Hopefully, free entrance to Botanical Gardens will be a thing of the past.”

Director of the Authority Andrew Wilson, in his presentation to an audience which included dignitaries, historians, and other stakeholders in the site and tourism industry, pointed out that research conducted indicates that persons are willing to pay to enter the gardens.

“In fact, in 2010, with funding from the Global Environmental Facility, working with the Ministry of Health and the Environment, we undertook a willingness to pay study to determine how much locals and foreigners will be willing to pay to enter the Gardens.

“….The study revealed that locals were willing to pay as much as $8.10; the mean (average) in terms of willingness to pay, while the mean willingness to pay for foreigners was $22.10.”

“So there is a clear indication that persons are willing to pay to enter the Gardens and we believe as we move forward, the introduction of entrance fees is critical to help generate the funds to sustain the gardens.”

Wilson also said that it was the belief of the Authority that the entrance fees could play a major role in cost recovery.

The introduction of fees is just one of the plans, Wilson said, which is to be put in place as the Botanic Gardens, which sits on just over 20 acres of land at Old Montrose, Kingstown, prepares to celebrate the milestone.

According to Wilson, the restoration and development needs of the gardens are inexhaustive, and he listed a number of areas in which work is expected to be done.

These include work on the landscape of the site, education and wider conservation, infrastructure and facility upgrades, developing the research role of the gardens, and visitor and human research management, which will include the hiring of a curator, which Wilson said was absolutely necessary.

“It’s like having a hospital without a doctor there. There is a limit to what you can achieve by not having a curator. Over the years, curators have played a very important and integral role in the development of the Botanical Gardens, and as we move and expand the horizon and vision of the Botanical Garden, it’s very important that this position be filled with the requisite person to undertake the task of moving the Gardens forward on a day to day basis, in terms of its management.”

Wilson said that the Authority will have a tremendous focus in the improvement of the Gardens; the oldest of its kind in the Western hemisphere.

“And no doubt we believe by the end of 2012, there should be a significant difference in the vision and feel of the Botanical Gardens, once the plans are implemented.”(JJ)

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