Last update: 09-Dec-2013 1:43 am
Monday, December 09, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Plea for budget $$ to save historical sites
For the first time ever the National Trust has officially named the 362 historically significant buildings and sites of T&T and designated them “heritage properties of interest.” Some of the sites, once they have undergone the formal process and achieved listed status, will be put forward to be considered by Unesco for World Heritage Site status.
With the backing of the Ministry of National Diversity, the list, titled the National Inventory of Cultural and Natural Heritage, was published in newspapers last Thursday in a double-page advertisement. The trust began compiling the list after its establishment in 1991 and it has grown significantly, albeit at a very slow pace, as new sites have been proposed over the past 22 years. The trust says the list is not exhaustive and more sites may be added.
A notice attached to the list notified the public of the heritage status of the properties and encouraged owners and the general public to safeguard the sites, which incorporate everything from prestige buildings like Mille Fleurs in Port-of-Spain to areas of outstanding natural beauty like Buccoo Reef and the Nylon Pool in Tobago.
The diversity of the list, which also includes the Cocoa Estate in Santa Cruz, the Tranquillity Methodist Church in St James, the Red House and the House of Kwame Ture, is a result of years of accumulation and sends a message to the public that a heritage site does not only mean a work of grand architecture but can be something as simple as Orosco Beach, Matura.
There are 57 sites from Tobago on the list and Vel Lewis, the outgoing chair of the trust, expressed admiration for the condition and maintenance of Tobago sites, such as Fort King George, which was recently restored.
The T&T Guardian spoke to Analicia Boyce of the National Trust, who said she had received calls since the publication of the list from the public and heritage tourism professionals, many of whom expressed relief and surprise at its appearance, which was seen as a major step forward. There were also calls from concerned members of the public to tell the trust about the condition of some of the sites on the inventory.
Each building must now be individually assessed and approved in order to acquire listed status. In his last interview before leaving the position of chairman, Vel Lewis told the T&T Guardian that individual owners were being notified that their property was on the list and said they would then have a “responsibility to properly maintain the building to a certain standard and to preserve the property.”
Asked whether the financial responsibility for maintenance would fall on owners themselves, Lewis said he hoped the budget, to be announced on Monday, would include funds for heritage preservation allocated to the Ministry of National Diversity and a special fund to assist private owners with necessary repairs and conservation.
Boyce said while the Government should shoulder most of the cost, particularly for the many heritage buildings it owns, she also hoped the Chamber of Commerce would play a role in encouraging the business community of T&T to donate funds for restoring some of the country’s finest historic buildings.
Boyce referred to the comments made by Catherine Kumar, president of the Chamber of Commerce, in the chamber’s weekly radio slot this week in which she praised the publication of the inventory and said T&T needed to step up and emulate other Caribbean countries that had properly looked after their heritage sites. Kumar cited examples including St Kitts and Nevis’s Brimstone Fortress, a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Boyce said that since Kumar had raised the issue she hoped she would now ask the corporate community of T&T “to get on board with assisting with the financial requirements of this ongoing project.”
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