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J.R. O’Neal Botanical Garden blooms again

-reopens following devastation from 2017 hurricanes
Scenes from Arbour Day 2018 in the VI @ the reopening of the J.R. O’Neal Botanical Garden, on Friday, November 30, 2018. Photo: GIS
ROAD TOWN, Tortola, VI - As part of Arbour Day celebrations on Friday, November 30, 2018, The J. R. O’Neal Botanical Garden was formally re-opened, having been destroyed by the hurricanes of 2017 which ravaged the Virgin Islands (VI).

Deputy Director of the National Parks Trust, Ms Nancy K. Pascoe, in sharing some of the challenges faced in getting the historic garden back up and running, said the day marked an important milestone, not just for the facility, but the Territory as a whole.

Huge recovery

“This is a really important day for us because this is basically the first day that we are reopening the gardens to the public after the Hurricane…We received enormous damage, we had at least 90 per cent of the trees destroyed…this use to be a really popular site where we would have workshops and meetings, weddings, etcetera,” she shared.

Ms Pascoe remarked too that while the facility suffered large-scale damage with as much as 90 per cent of its large shade trees destroyed, transformation and full recovery is on the way with many of the facilities, including the gift shop and fencing for the dedicated parking lot re-done.

Coming along

She did disclose, that “not the entire gardens are being reopened now," and explained "we are still working on certain sections that were still quite badly damaged…so I would say like three-quarters of the garden grounds, are open.”

Ms Pascoe revealed also, “our long-term plan is to redesign overall…even though we lost all the leaves and trees did fall, the shrubbery and lower plants have all grown back,” she said, while pointing to the resilience of plants to overcome challenges.

Chairman of the National Parks Trust, Ms Ayana S. Hull in her remarks said, “…the garden that has such strong roots in this Territory, was literally knocked completely flat in 2017 but just like us, it had to struggle to get itself back together.”

Gratitude

Meanwhile, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour, Mr Ronald F. Smith-Berkeley, expressed his gratitude on behalf of Minister Dr. Honourable Kedrick D. Pickering (R7) to the Director and staff of the Trust, and other departments including Fire and Rescue Services, Conservation and Fisheries, Survey, Agriculture and the Fishing Complex for contributing to the rebirth of the park for the tourist season.

Past Chairman of the National Parks Trust and son of the late J.R. O’Neal, OBE, Dr Michael O’Neal, referred to his father’s memoir entitled, Life Notes: Reflection of a British Virgin Islander, 2004.

Dr O’Neal shared with the gathering that his father’s boyhood years in Cuba and the exposure to that country’s richness of landscape and biodiversity helped to shape his appreciation of nature.

The Arbour Day celebration was hosted by the National Parks Trust (NPT) of the VI under the theme “Honouring Our Roots.”

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