Financial difficulties and staffing challenges are affecting the state-owned entity responsible for local parks and protected areas.
Director of the National Parks Trust (NPT) Dr Cassander Titley-O’Neal told the Standing Finance Committee (SFC) recently that she has an ageing staff and some of them have since retired.
Dr Titley-O’Neal also said she hired some young men but they have since “abandoned the job”. She stated that the Trust has a “problem with the young people where they have challenges”. She did not expound on that statement except to tell the SFC that she has “tried her best with them”.
The SFC wrote in its 2023 report that Dr Titley-O’Neal had said her department is also looking for more wardens on Virgin Gorda, “but she cannot hire more staff, and Virgin Gorda is the only island that has six national parks”.
“She also mentioned that she has inherited an ageing park that needs to be fixed from Hurricane Irma but the funding is not available. She also mentioned that she inherited bills from 2019,” the SFC document reported.
‘Shameful’ entry fee
Legislators sitting on the SFC were also made aware of the Director’s dissatisfaction with the small three-dollar fee to enter the territory’s national parks.
Dr Titley-O’Neal said the existing fee is “a shame and cannot purchase toilet paper for the bathrooms”. She further said it was to her understanding that government had approved fee increases. However, she said the increases were later pulled back.
Premier and Minister of Finance Dr Natalio Wheatley responded at the time that the proposals for those fee increases should be considered. He said his ministry would review the proposals and bring them forward.
There are 21 known parks under the responsibility of the NPT.