The Turks and Caicos National Trust was given the opportunity to participate in and to become a beneficiary of a project co-funded by the European Commission titled ‘Management of Protected Areas to Support Sustainable Economics (MPASSE).’ The MPASSE was a trans-regional venture between three UK Overseas Caribbean Territories Trusts, BVI Parks Trust, National Trust of the Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos National Trust.
Whilst the overall objective was a common core, that being to fulfill international environmental agreements in the three territories by way of supporting sustainable development, each entity had autonomy to design activities to deliver the five results set by the conditions of the project agreement:
1. Improved eco-tourism facilities
2. Improved environmental awareness among citizenry
3. Improved conservation measures
4. Implementation of documented Environmental Management Plans
5. Improved Institutional Capacity
For its set of activities, the Turks and Caicos National Trust (TCNT) management did not have a difficult task with selecting designs. TCNT had several projects dating from 2004-2008 which could not be implemented due to lack of resources. Activities were simply extracted from these concepts and fitted into the MPASSE.
Implementation of the MPASSE was certainly not without challenge! Delays and uncertainties were experienced by all three beneficiaries of the MPASSE, so much so that the European Commission decided to extend the project completion date from December 2012 to December 31st 2014.
It has been almost eighteen months since the conclusion of the project. And since the Turks and Caicos National Trust has just commenced a new institutional year April 1st, 2016, it prompted cause for reflection. And whilst it seem as though there have been more speculation and criticism of the Trust by TCIG over the past twenty-four months rather than recognition of the valuable contribution towards sustainable development and conservation management carried out by the organisation, there are indeed milestones to celebrate.
Life itself is filled with ups and downs. And yes, just like any other company, the TCNT has experienced valleys and hills. But while we were in the valley we could see the hill ahead and never lost hope nor focus. TCNT leadership always recognized that the source of strength and wisdom is the Almighty.
A major achievement through the MPASSE project was the construction of the Little Water Cay visitor centre. The centre, completed in 2013 is a much welcomed facility by both visitors and staff of the Trust. School children can now interact with conservation wardens at the centre during field trips in a comfortable environment. Since the construction of the centre, we have noticed a gradual increase in visitation by school children. The centre also has an inventory of locally made souvenirs. Visitors looking for authentic TCI handmade gifts and souvenirs can browse through our inventory to purchase that special item while waiting on their boat to depart. Within this institutional year, management will begin focusing on introducing additional guided tours and other organized activities on Little Water Cay. Refurbishment to sections of the boardwalks and installation of interpretive panels were also carried out under the project.
The field-road/nature trail to the Bird Rock Point Heritage Fields (111 acres) was cleared, providing access into this beautiful natural habitat. The Trust has plans to construct a small rustic facility at the entrance from which the staff can manage visitor activity and items can be exhibited.
We are also quite pleased to state that through the MPASSE, the organisation was able to refurbish the thatched roof on the slave cabin replica, construct a kitchen replica and install interpretive panels at Cheshire Hall Plantation Historic Site. Similar refurbishments were accomplished at the Wade’s Green Plantation Historic Site on North Caicos, including works to the lintels, sections of the walls, stairs and steps, and improvements to the carriage way.
In addition to infrastructure, promotional materials advertising heritage sites were designed and printed, educational materials published, the first edition of the heritage register produced and conservation management plans for Little Water Cay, Bird Rock Point, Cheshire Hall and Wade’s Green developed and are being implemented.
Yet, another positive through the MPASSE worth mentioning is the strengthening of institutional capacity to deliver the results of the project. During implementation, the Trust was able to hire one additional staff in the Education Outreach and Marketing Unit and covered a percentage of staff time at the heritage sites with project funds.
We again would like to express appreciation to the European Commission for the opportunity to benefit from the co-funding, and gratitude is extended to our international partner, RSPB, local partners PWD, Planning Department, DECR and the Tourist Board for their support.
In looking back, for the TCNT, the MPASSE was intended to be a catalyst to propel the Trust forward. Did we achieve this objective? We certainly have. That is why we can say, ‘we are building on foundations laid.’
Turks & Caicos National Trust
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