Locals may soon be required to pay a fee when utilising any National Parks Trust venue. Furthermore, the existing fees for tourists may see an increase.
This is according to the Director of the National Parks Trust, Dr Cassander Titley-O’Neal who said these new measures will have to be taken to revive the organisation.
Speaking at a recent online forum, Dr Titley-O’Neal said the Trust has been operating at a loss.
“We have to find a way for either: locals to either start paying some kind of nominal fee to pay and continue for the upkeep. And on top of that, in terms of the tourist, they’re going to have to pay some sort of increase in fees.”
“We have to carry up the fees to cover the maintenance costs. We are not looking at it for profit. If we can break even, I would be extremely happy. But right now, the way in which the Trust has been running — for quite some time — has been at a loss. And it is really affecting our operations and that’s why a lot of people complain; ‘oh and this park is closed and that park is closed’.”
COVID-19 impacted funding
Dr Titley-O’Neal also alluded to the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the reason for wanting to introduce fees to locals.
She said the main stream of income into the National Parks Trust usually comes through donations or tourism.
“Tourism is down. COVID is not only affecting the BVI, it’s affecting on a global scale so obviously the donations have been down as well. And so getting the volume of money from donations and ‘parks entrance fees’ is not enough to sustain us. So we’ve been having some challenges over the last couple of months but we’ve been working through them steady,” she explained.
Increase in traffic since COVID/Higher maintenance
The director further said there has been an increase in foot traffic into the various national parks across the territory since the advent of COVID-19.
This increase will naturally require a more frequent maintenance schedule to the various venues, she explained.
“One of the things I want the public to understand is that all of these parks were destroyed during Irma. Most of them were not repaired and because of COVID now, we are finding an increase in a surge of persons using them. I’ve seen hiking groups going to places like Shark Bay and Sage Mountain,” Dr Titley-O’Neal stated.
She added: “We increase traffic and [must] keep up with the trails and the pieces of wood and lumber that have to be tracked. So everything costs money.”
By generating additional revenue for maintenance, Dr Titley-O’Neal said the territory’s ecosystem services will be preserved.
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