In 2014, The Ministry of Tourism, Economic Development, Investment and Energy engaged Sustainable Travel International and the OAS to propel Antigua and Barbuda further along on its sustainability journey. After extensive research and with several stakeholder consultations, some gaps in the Country’s efforts were identified. One was the lack of a formal inventory and classification system of our natural and cultural heritage sites. With that being absent, there was little accurate interpretation infrastructure and management mechanisms in place for most of these sites.
Hence, a working group of stakeholders – teachers, historians, government officials, and persons from various communities with a keen interest in our environment and history – was formed and met monthly over a two-year period to address the issue. The members of the working group included Vashti Ramsey-Casimir, Dr. Reg. Murphy, Michelle Henry, Sharon Dalso, Kessa Stevens, Darlene Lay, Alicia Cornelius, Richard Aparicio and Amiah Nicholas. The Vision of the working group was to have a current and up-to-date inventory of all cultural, traditional and natural heritage sites. This would require revision and updating annually with all stakeholders actively participating in the protection of these sites. It was from this vision that the project of mapping the heritage sites throughout Antigua and Barbuda was born.
The two (2) year process began with the working group identifying priority themes for the map series and creating a criteria and classification system for identifying relevant sites. The work also required the assistance of the Department of Environment Data Management Unit to map the sites based on territorial, parish, street and exact point of physical structure. The result consisted of a series of maps separated into five (5) themes – Sites of Barbuda, Historical Churches, Slave Routes and Sugar Estates, Mystical Sites and Ancient Trees, and the Forts.
Mrs. Vashti Ramsey-Casimir, Senior Tourism Officer with responsibility for Sustainable Tourism, advised “Sixty-four (64) sites were mapped and classified with the assistance of the Department of the Environment. However, a key element of the map series is the stories and information on the sites. The information is as accurate as they come which will allow for all users of the map to have correct information when learning about the natural and cultural heritage of Antigua and Barbuda.”
There is also an online feature to allow the sites to be visible if using Google Earth to ensure that the tech-savvy visitor or local can have the maps and information at their fingertips.
The Ministry of Tourism, Economic Development, Investment and Energy launched the physical maps at the historic Copper and Lumber Store Inn located in Antigua and Barbuda’s UNESCO Word Heritage Site, Nelson’s Dockyard, on August 17th, 2017. This event was not only held to commemorate the historic event but also in recognition of Antigua and Barbuda’s commitment to Sustainable Tourism in light of this year being named the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.
The Cocktail Ceremony saw the attendance of key stakeholders within the Industry, historians and special interest groups. Special remarks were offered by Mrs. Paula Hunte, the Permanent Secretary, on behalf of the Hon. Asot A. Michael, Minister of Tourism, Economic Development, Investment and Energy which spoke to the value of protecting these sites and the role we all play in our cultural and natural heritage management.
Mrs. Hunte noted “Protection of our natural and cultural heritage is fundamental to our identity – this is our past, our present and our future. This heritage map series for the destination was created with the hope that this will not only be used by our visitors but our schools, hikers, local groups for recreation and educational purposes.” She added that this map series will also be a means of awareness raising and garnering support for natural and cultural heritage preservation on all levels of the Antiguan and Barbudan Society.
The Heritage Map Series is the first of its kind in Antigua and Barbuda and have been made available to the hotels, tour operators, taxis, the Ports, the Museum and the schools. Hard Copies are also available at the Ministry of Tourism, Economic Development, Investment and Energy. Persons are encouraged to utilize these maps creating their own tours with family and friends to see some of the hidden natural and cultural treasures of Antigua and Barbuda. •