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Vice president of the Asa Wright Nature Centre board of directors Marina Narinesingh points to one of the many species of birds which can be found at the embattled Asa Wright,Blanchisseuse Road yesterday

Kalain Hosein

The Asa Wright Nature Centre and Eco-Lodge opened in 1967.

Now, over 50 years later, it has closed its doors for the first time, sending home more than 40 employees.

Flora and fauna stretch along the nature site’s trails as far as the eye can see.

Asa Wright’s conservation land trust extends across the Arima, Aripo, and Guanapo Valleys of the Northern Range, spanning 1,500 acres.

The centre’s main facilities, including its eco-lodge, are on a former cocoa-coffee-citrus plantation in the Arima valley. Along the many trails of the Centre’s property, several Chinese Palms are scattered, home to the Nature Centre’s mascot, the Oilbird.

The eco-tourism site is home to nearly all local hummingbirds species, hundreds of birds, and butterflies.

Because of COVID-19, the centre has fallen on hard times.

However, the centre’s management is adamant that the trust’s work to maintain the premises will continue.

Vice chairman of the Asa Wright’s board of management Marina Narinesigh said, “We are in the process of doing almost an audit of the current state of the ground. We’ve been closed for a few days, but nature takes effect. It is alive, and everything grows. We are in the process of developing systems and programs to ensure the proper maintenance of the premises and the landholdings.”

Asa Wright’s conservation land trust extends across the Arima, Aripo, and Guanapo Valleys of the Northern Range, spanning 1,500 acres.

The centre’s main facilities, including its eco-lodge, are on a former cocoa-coffee-citrus plantation in the Arima valley. Along the many trails of the centre’s property, several Chinese Palms are scattered, home to the Nature Centre’s mascot, the Oilbird.

The threat of quarrying

An ever-looming threat to the conservatory has been quarrying, as the 1,500-acre span is not contiguous. Narinesingh explained, “one of our parcels of land has been affected by quarrying operators, which is actually a matter in court. We’re engaged in litigation in that matter, and it is something we continue to monitor.”

However, she explained that while a part of the land was affected, the operator’s new owner has been respectful of the boundaries.

In fact, the centre’s management has engaged the Ministry of Energy and the Minerals Division to monitor and ensure there is no encroachment nor quarrying on their lands.

Therefore the board’s priority is on not only maintenance but the security of the premises going forward.

The Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Arts has reached out to the centre’s management, which Narinesingh has called “great news.”

Tourism Minister Randall Mitchell, in a statement, said, “The board has indicated that of paramount importance is the maintenance and security of the wildlife sanctuary, and they have promised to submit their proposed requirements to me next week.”

Whats is next for Asa Wright?

According to both the chairman of Asa Wright Nature Centre’s Board Professor Judith Gobin and its vice chairman Marina Narinesigh, it is too soon to say.

Narinesingh explained, “We are in the process of reinventing ourselves. I don’t know. I can’t say yet what that new model will look like. We intend to consult with the experts in the area to see how we can make ourselves more resilient.”

“I really can’t say exactly what it will look like in the future, but I imagine some part of that will be public access to these beautiful grounds and come and sit on the veranda one day and drink run punches.”