Visiting Asa Wright Nature Centre

 

16th December 2021

STATEMENT FROM THE BOARD OF MANAGEMENT

Release by- Prof. Judith Gobin, Chair, AWNC

After its closure to the public almost two years ago, the Asa Wright Nature Centre plans to reopen its doors in 2022 with a new partner.

In September, the Asa Wright Nature Centre (AWNC) invited proposals for the operation of the ecolodge at its’ internationally renowned Spring Hill Estate. The separation of the operation of the ecolodge business will allow the Centre to refocus on its core mission of conservation, education and scientific research. In response to the call for proposals, the Centre received a number of proposals from various corporate entities. After a rigorous evaluation and approval process, the Chair on behalf of the Trustees of the Board of the AWNC and the members of the Board- is pleased to announce that HADCO Limited emerged as the successful proposer.

HADCO Limited started in 1992 and “HADCO” has since become a household name in Trinidad and Tobago. While the HADCO Group of Companies is well known for its food and beverage services, within the last five years the group has diversified its business to include two recycling companies. The HADCO group is now seeking to diversify its business even further, into the ecotourism market. The ecolodge at the Asa Wright Nature Centre will be the flagship property of its ecotourism business. AWNC and HADCO will collaborate to transform the operations of the ecolodge at Spring Hill Estate to attain international green certification in sustainable operations.

While the doors of the Centre have been closed, the Centre has continued its’ conservation work. This proposed partnership is one step on the path to creating an immersive experience where  present and future generations can learn and understand the value of our natural landscape, flora and fauna, The Centre looks forward to sharing some of its ongoing projects and work through its social media platforms in the near future.

Over the next few weeks, the Centre and HADCO will engage in negotiations on the terms of its concession for the operation of the ecolodge. The Centre and HADCO look forward to welcoming our old and new friends and supporters to the Asa Wright Nature Centre and the Ecolodge at Spring Hill Estate in 2022.

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3rd September, 2021

STATEMENT FROM THE BOARD OF MANAGEMENT 

Release by- Prof. Judith Gobin, Chair, AWNC  

To all of our dear AWNC supporters, well-wishers and nationals of Trinidad and Tobago:

We hope that everyone is staying as safe as possible during these unpredictable times. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic persists, glimmers of hope – vaccinations, and the partial re-opening of the Trinidad and Tobago borders, are tempered with continuing harsh realities: more robust variants, volatile eco-tourism recovery, an extension to the State of Emergency (with curfews) and continued restrictions to outdoor movement. 

It has been just over 7 months (January 2021) since the Board of the AWNC made the difficult decision to terminate the eco-lodge business of the AWNC’s Trust. We continue to receive numerous emails and phone calls- enquiring about the resumption of our operations and wish to share a brief update. 

In our last statement, in February 2021, we indicated that there are ongoing trade disputes lodged by the Governmental Industrial and General Workers Union (GIGWU) against the Centre. Despite our efforts, the conciliation processes facilitated by the Ministry of Labour and directly with the Union have not yet produced a resolution. While we continue to respect the industrial relations process, we wish to assure everyone that the Board (and Trustees) of the Asa Wright Nature Centre remain committed to finding a sustainable and resilient business model that secures the future of the Centre. 

We continue to endeavour to protect the lands from ever present threats such as illegal hunting, quarrying etc. and to support ongoing wildlife monitoring. Assistance from our security personnel and all of our voluntary Board Members have been invaluable. I would also like to sincerely thank Senator the Honourable Randall Mitchell, Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts for his tremendous assistance, along with the staff of Ministries of Tourism and Public Utilities and CEPEP and Local Government -in these efforts. 

In an effort to support our ongoing important conservation and sustainable development work and to meet the core objectives of our Trust Deed; the Board of management has issued an RFP- for proposals for a Concession to operate the Eco-Lodge. The intent of this call is to actively seek out mission-aligned tourism development entities who can support the lodging activities of the AWNC Trust. 

Together we hope to work towards building a locally loved, already internationally recognized brand that will become the benchmark for sustainable hotel/tourism operation in the region. Please visit our website and Facebook page for the details of the RFP and to receive future updates. 

We thank you for your continued support. 

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21st February 2021

Media Statement

In March 2020, with the closure of the country’s borders to international travel the Asa Wright Nature Centre was forced to close its ecolodge. It was the Centre’s hope that this would be temporary, and that the business of the Centre could continue on a limited scale. However, since March 2020, the Centre has not generated any income from its ecolodge and there has been little or no work available for employees. Sadly, nearly a year later, there is no indication as to when the eco-tourism sector will recover from the ongoing pandemic.

It was against this backdrop, that the Board after a review of its finances and in an effort to avoid the risk of insolvency took a unanimous decision to permanently close its business. A consequence of this decision was that employees had to be dismissed.

The Board notes with concern, publicised allegations in relation to the closure of its business which calls into question the good faith and propriety of such action. The Board wishes to reiterate that the decision to close permanently was taken reluctantly and only after receipt of legal advice as to the appropriate manner of such closure. The Board has acted in accordance with this legal advice and rejects any assertion that it breached any legal obligation to its employees or otherwise.

As many persons may not be aware, most of the employees of the Centre are represented by the Government Industrial and General Workers Union, which is the recognised majority union. As such the Board is obligated by law to deal directly with the Union and not the workers personally. The Board has honoured this legal obligation though there may be workers who disagreed with this process.

The Union has now reported seven disputes to the Ministry of Labour. It is unfortunate that claims now being advanced by the Union before the Ministry of Labour have now found themselves in the public arena. The Board has been advised that is obligated to respect the confidentiality and exclusivity of the conciliation processes which has already been engaged and to not disclose those discussions. The Board has at all times been respectful of its legal obligations and is confident that its conduct will be vindicated by any Court before which these matters are raised.

Since the closure, there has been an outpouring of support for the Centre. Over the past few weeks, the Board has worked tirelessly to put into place measures for the protection, monitoring and maintenance of our lands and the animals that call it their home. In the weeks ahead, the Board will continue to explore ways to protect and fulfil its conservation mission and services in a sustainable way for Trinidad & Tobago and the international community. We look forward to the continued and invaluable support of our friends, volunteers, and champions.

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 17th January 2021

Media Statement

Asa Wright Nature Centre Closes Eco-Lodge Business

(Arima) – With the closure of the borders and limited physical movement as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Board of Management of the Asa Wright Nature Centre has taken a decision to terminate its eco-lodge business.

The Asa Wright Nature Centre is a Conservation Land Trust, which comprises approximately 1,500 acres of mainly forested land in the Arima, Guanapo and Aripo Valleys of the Northern Range. The Objectives of the Trust include retaining the lands under forest cover in perpetuity, protecting the community watershed and conserving and maintaining important wildlife and their habitats.

The Centre’s main facilities, including its eco-lodge, are located on a former cocoa-coffee-citrus plantation in the Arima valley. Since 1967, the lodge has offered accommodation in cottages near the Main House open to local and foreign visitors alike – attracting mainly eco-tourists, nature lovers and bird watchers from all over the world. It is considered one of the top ecolodges in the world and was recognized in the New York Times Bestseller book by Patricia Shulz 1,000 Places to See Before You Die.

Board Chairperson Prof. Judith Gobin said “the Board of Management which comprises voluntary members covering a range of professions, have made every effort to attempt to keep the lodge operational, but its closure was inevitable. With no visitors, no revenue, no endowment, and no direct governmental assistance it has been extremely challenging for the Asa Wright Nature Centre”.

She said they were faced with a dilemma on how to move forward with no visitors. “It was a very difficult decision for us, as we have staff who have been with us from since we first opened our doors. We have made every effort to ensure our staff were employed from March to December 2020, but as we move forward into 2021 with no insight as to what is to come, we realized we could not afford to sustain this business.” As a result, we were forced to make the hard decision to close down, regrettably releasing all members of our staff associated with the business.

Prof. Gobin emphasizes that the conservation and protection work of the Trust continues and we are heartened by the response to our call for funding for this work-which we first made in October 2020.

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