A National Botanical Garden at Codrington, St Michael, an idea left to lie fallow by two successive administrations, is finally to become a reality, Mia Mottley has said.
She was addressing the official opening of the children’s play park in Welchman Hall, St Thomas, part of the Maria Holder Memorial Trust’s Eleven Play Parks project, in which the trust either refurbishes or builds a new park in all eleven parishes.
The first park opened at Wotton, Christ Church, the charity’s gift to nation for its 50th year of independence in 2016.
Addressing the audience, which included Minister of Environment and National Beautification Trevor Prescod, Mottley said it was critical that as her administration tried to stabilize the economy, it also gave equal attention to ensuring a safe and clean environment.
Mottley said she wanted to make sure that children were not “condemned to a past that [does] not suit either their passion or their inclination or capacity”, as she stressed that they stood to be affected most by climate change. “It is why we work hard every day to also make sure that we keep this country clean,” the Prime Minister said.
And as the country continues to grapple with spotty garbage collection, the Prime Minister disclosed that she has been putting pressure on ministers to tackle the issue.
“[Minister] Trevor [Prescod] will tell you that I am now probably accused by my Cabinet of being the chief complainer on Thursday mornings as to where the country needs cleaning up, because until such time as we have cleaned up Barbados, we cannot simply be satisfied by the gains we are making economically,” said Mottley.
“This process of cleaning our country and beautifying our country again has to be the one that engages not just the Government but each and every Barbadian, and we do it not for ourselves alone, but for these young children. We do it to give them an example apart from the protection of their public health,” she said.
During the function, which included entertainment from the children of the Maria Holder Nursery School at Sharon, the Prime Minister and the chairman and co-founder of the trust, Christopher Holder, were presented with portraits from students and teachers.
Expressing her wish to see more of the island’s gullies transformed into attractions for relaxation and enjoyment by both locals and tourists, Mottley indicated that she would be ensuring the development of the National Botanical Gardens at Codrington, the wide open space that lies due east of the National Stadium.
“Whether it is at Welchman Hall or whether it is at Hunte’s Gardens, we need to take more of our gullies and develop them as features, as enjoyment not just for people who visit, but for Barbadians who live here,” she said, adding that cleaning up of the island and development required everyone to play a part.
“It is for this reason that over the course of the last ten days or so I met with all of the landscape architects of Barbados for them to come up with a plan for the execution of the National Botanical Gardens, which must become a reality starting from [next] year,” she said.
“More than a decade ago, the Government sought to acquire the land and did nothing with it, and far from limiting it to the 250 acres where we have, Minister Prescod, we want to cross the road into your constituency as well on the other side of the road at the Belle and to be able to utilize as much as that land…. That entire corridor has now to come alive so that in the same way that people go to huge parks in North America and Europe and enjoy themselves . . . . It is about time that Barbadians be allowed to enjoyed the majesty of the beauty of our country,” said Mottley, who insisted that children should be taught to respect the environment and keep it clean.
In 2012, under the Freundel Stuart administration, then Environment Minister Dr Denis Lowe had promised to expand the fruit orchard, establish a palm and flower garden and woodland, a two-mile jogging track and a rain garden.
There were also plans to plant a variety of at least 50 trees for the island’s 50th anniversary celebrations. While some trees were planted it was not clear how many in total were cultivated.
A cost has not been given for the area’s development.
But the Maria Holder Memorial Trust is willing to assist, said Holder.
“Please engage with us on your horticultural issues, please,” he urged the Prime Minister.
The trust, which has partnered with Government to build several preschools across the nation, also indicated that it intends to open “a few more” schools, starting next year.
The philanthropic organisation has donated some $50 million towards development projects in Barbados “over the last few years”, said Holder.