Asa Wright Nature Centre

Flashback: Visitors on one of the trails at the Asa Wright Nature Centre. The eco-lodge has been in operation since 1967.

That your writer, Mark Meredith, could so attack the Asa Wright Nature Centre (Sunday Express, September 19) for being closed to visitors since March 2020 is quite astonishing.

Our country has been closed to visitors and business since the presence of the dreaded Covid-19 virus. What Meredith, the Express and indeed Asa’s friends and our country should know is that if there were no Covid, the Asa Wright Nature Centre (AWNC) would be open and operating today as one of the world’s premier and best loved nature and tropical birding attractions.

AWNC’s staff—from room care, to kitchens, to maintenance of buildings, gardens, forest trails, wild animal feeding, and guides both on-site and “external,” to the many magnificent nature settings we have in our country (do you know some of these?), would all be at work in a well-cared-for and beautiful setting, except for the curse of Covid.

When an operation is forced to close, as AWNC has been forced to close because of a lack of customers, what can it do?

AWNC sits high in the tropical rainforest, which is its charm until it cannot operate. When closed, as it has been since March 2020, bush grows, leaves fall into guttering, mildew appears and dust gathers in empty rooms and spaces.

With no income whatsoever, the early attempts to clean and maintain had to be curtailed. Anywhere else in the world where this happens, this would be understood.

Dozens, if not hundreds, of businesses in T&T are also closed, and for the same reason: no clientele, no customers, no income. Because Asa Wright sits high in the rainforest, harsher conditions affect the buildings.

However, all of its buildings and infrastructure are strong and sound. And this includes roads, trails, its own water supply system, its own garbage and waste materials disposal to a proper facility, its own security, and its own back-up electricity supply.

Why should initiatives and positivity get in the way of the leaves in rainwater guttering and dusty floors he noted in a semi-abandoned facility?

Another falsehood is the suggestion that the nature trails are overgrown with bush. About three weeks ago, I toured the nature trails. Apart from a couple of tree-falls in the forest, which will be cleared, I had no problem walking the nature trails of Asa Wright. And I am 83. You think you could walk those trails, Meredith? Come with me!

This Covid thing has really hurt T&T terribly. And without any visitors at all, it has hurt AWNC along with many establishments. This is not its fault. Why is Meredith calling upon AWNC to clean and clear the areas, while the Botanic Gardens are overgrown in town, and hotels and restaurants remain closed everywhere? Our country needs this valued treasure—whether “operated” by Asa Wright or by some concessionaire.

I have not, and will not, address his comments on the matter with the AWNC workers’ trade union. Suffice to say that if there were no Covid, all staff would be working all now.

However, that matter is working its way through the Industrial Court at this time.

Some readers may be aware that I took a “retirement position” at Asa Wright Nature Centre a few years ago. And for this (I think!) I was made an honorary board member. However, as readers will know, I have a long history of commenting on public issues, and this here is my own opinion, not a management or board letter.

Peter O’Connor

via e-mail

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