Prime Minister David Thompson??(right) and Minister of the Environment, Dr. Denis Lowe, unveiling the??plaque to officially reopen Harrison’s Cave. Looking on is Parliamentary Representative for St. Thomas, Cynthia Forde. (Image: A. Miller)
Barbados’ premier natural attraction, Harrison’s Cave, was officially reopened last Saturday, after being redeveloped at a cost of just under $85,000,000.????
Prime Minister David Thompson, in delivering the feature address, said that approximately 70 per cent of the funding for the Cave was supplied by the Caribbean Development Bank, in the form of a loan to Caves of Barbados Limited (CBL).
He stressed that given the improvements that had been made, the upward adjustment in admission fees from Bds$40 to Bds$60 for visitors, and Bds$30 to Bds$50 for residents, was more than justifiable, in terms of value for money and should allow CBL to effectively service the debt incurred.
"The bottom line is that this is an investment that is expected to pay dividends.
Harrison’s Cave has been modernised at considerable cost.
"First, revenue flows have been severely interrupted for nearly four years. Harrison’s Cave was closed in July 2006 to facilitate the civil works. It was reopened briefly in 2007 for Cricket World Cup and again from January 2008 to July 2009, before the latest closure to allow for the completion of the civil works," Mr. Thompson lamented.
He pointed out that in order to protect the Cave, it was imperative that green principles be incorporated not only into its design and construction, but also into the everyday operations.
"It was therefore essential to establish a Zone of Special Environmental Control, to ensure we do not endanger this delicate ecosystem in the process of developing the site.
"From the trams that are electronically powered, to the incorporation of solar panels in the structure, green energy has been used to provide power on site. Even the external lights are triggered to come on by the use of sensors, when natural illumination falls below a pre-determined level," he observed. ??
The Prime Minister noted that in addition to this, low wattage lighting had been employed in the cave, and water was supplied for irrigation purposes through the capture of rainwater from the roof and the hard surfaces on the cliff-top.
Describing the redevelopment project as a model for the greening of Barbados, Mr. Thompson revealed that it incorporated composting of green wastes from the landscaping and site maintenance activities. There is also a collection system for recyclables.
"Natural wood and stone products have been utilised throughout the site and the natural vegetation of the area has been maintained wherever possible," he stated.
Prime Minister Thompson challenged other developers to be as green in their developments, and encouraged all Barbadians to "green-up Barbados to help preserve our natural heritage, but moreso, to save money!"
Meanwhile, in his welcoming remarks, Minister of the Environment, Water Resources and Drainage, Dr. Denis Lowe, observed that the site had undergone "a complete transformation".
He pointed to the construction of a new Tram Storage Building and a new Visitor Reception Centre, which includes administration offices, a spacious restaurant with a bar and gift shop, along the Wild Cave Tour Building, as among the improvements.
"There are also three new elevators to take you from the cliff top to the gully floor of the cave. There you will find a light refreshment bar, along with five sales kiosks for the community which lead you to the technologically improved Cave Interpretive Centre," Dr. Lowe added.
He maintained that the new facilities were intended to not only make the functions of Harrison’s Cave more efficient and effective, but specifically, to add significant educational and entertainment value to the cave experience for touring patrons.