Conflict over the management of the historic Wallings Reservoir

Staff at the Wallings Nature Reserve Incorporated have been working for months to clean the Wallings Reservoir in preparation for a major development project (file photo by Theresa Goodwin)

Conflict appears to be brewing again regarding which local group is authorised to manage the property at the historic Wallings Reservoir which falls under the responsible of the Ministry of Agriculture.

On Tuesday there was a standoff between staff of the Wallings Nature Reserve Incorporated, a group from John Hughes Community which is currently preparing the area for a development project, and Chief Forestry Officer in the Agriculture Ministry, Adriel Thibou.

The problem occurred when Thibou attempted to access the facility with a bus load of people for a private tour and was barred from doing so by staff of the Nature Reserve who requested that he pay a minimal entrance fee.

Project Coordinator for the Wallings Nature Reserve, Refica Attwood, explained that the agriculture official refused to pay the fee.

“He came on government’s time in his private vehicle to lead a tour and when he came the people that are working at Wallings stood up in the road and informed him that we have taken over the management of the area and he has to pay a fee. He informed them that he would not be paying anything because he is employed with the Ministry of Agriculture,” Attwood said.

She added that the police were called in and it was agreed that Thibou should be allowed access to the facility until the relevant authorities are able to determine who has the right to manage the facility.

The project coordinator is urging agriculture officials to move swiftly to address the matter.

Efforts to contact Thibou were unsuccessful.

In February this year, the John Hughes community group, called on the Prime Minister, Gaston Browne to intervene as they expressed frustration over waiting for months for the agriculture ministry to give permission to start construction on what’s said to be a US $50,000 development at the Wallings Reservoir.

Back then, the group said it had secured the funds through a grant from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to upgrade the reservoir which is one of the many historical sites in Antigua and Barbuda.

A month prior to the request for the PM Help, Jedidiah Maxime, director of agriculture informed our newsroom that the community group was asked to present some additional information about their business proposal, which was the reason for the hold-up.

But, Attwood had said the requested documents were re-submitted in late January. However, several weeks passed without any word from the ministry.