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HomeHeadlines That MatterWallings Nature Reserve pulls out of conservation project, removes hiking trail signs

Wallings Nature Reserve pulls out of conservation project, removes hiking trail signs

The forestry project near John Hughes was being managed by the Wallings Nature Reserve (WNR) Incorporated until a recent stand-off between the Ministry of Agriculture and the head of the non-profit organisation over the future use of the facility which ultimately falls under the ministry’s responsibility.

The WNR had a temporary arrangement with the Agriculture Ministry but something permanent was in the works, and late last month the ministry said a legal officer was working to settle an agreement with the company.

However, WNR’s Executive Director Refica Attwood posted photos and videos to social media on Monday showing the removal of signs and other WNR property from the area.

She remained adamant that the organisation does not want to enter into a public-private partnership with the government, and stated that the “exceptional” programme should continue without the involvement of the government.

“Moving away from the space is for myself and my team members because we do not want to be affiliated with failure and the current government has nothing but failures.

“They want to put a model together for other communities to follow. We do not want to be affiliated,” she declared in a Facebook video.

Observer reached out to a few local hiking groups to gauge the impact the move would have on the sector, which has seen an upsurge in popularity due to residents seeking socially distanced fun and exercise during the pandemic.

Joe Chin, of Jolly Rogers hiking club on Antigua’s west side, said the situation at Wallings was “unfortunate” and that Attwood and her team had been doing “great work”.

“They have made the trails in the area really accessible with those signs. If no one maintains those trails, they will get overgrown and fewer hikers will use them,” he said.

Chin was also hopeful that the government can intervene and restore the trails back to full operation.

Many hikers use the nature reserve’s trails to access Signal Hill, Rendezvous Bay, and even as far as Turtle Bay and Carlisle Bay.

“This is very unfortunate, I hope the government can bring everyone back to the table and do what’s best for Antigua,” he added.

Orrin Steele told Observer that his group, Trails 268, would largely remain unaffected by the removal of the signs and trail markers, believing that would also be the case for other local hiking groups that already know the routes well.

However, he shared concern that tourists would be disadvantaged and may need to hire trail guides in the absence of markers to avoid getting lost.

Steele said he would contact fellow hiking groups and help replace the signs and markers along the trails.

Meanwhile, he advised residents who are unfamiliar with a trail to turn around if they are unsure of where it leads to.(Observer Media)

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