Interactive centres thrust for National Trust

Providing hands-on opportunities to learn about Cayman’s natural environment and history is the wave of the future for the National Trust for the Cayman Islands.

That’s the main focus of the non-profit group’s new five-year strategic plan that aims to develop visitor’s centres with interactive exhibits and programming.

‘We’re going to become more involved in the community,’ said general manager Frank Roulstone. ‘The Trust will transition from being an office to being a much more public facility. We want to make it a very interesting place for people to visit.’

Visitors would be able to handle crocodile bones, for example, or learn about bugs through a digital insectarium, he said.

The Trust plans to set up visitor’s centres in three districts – George Town, West Bay and East End.

‘We want to become the principal source of environmental and historic information,’ said Mr. Roulstone.

‘From a visitor’s perspective, we would also have information about various activities they can do – everything from diving and deep sea fishing to walking tours. Most of the activities here are related to the environment.’

The plan is to rebuild the historic Mission House in Bodden Town and Miss Izzy’s Schoolhouse in West Bay – which were both damaged by the hurricane – as visitor’s centres. The Trust is also considering replacing the visitor’s centre downtown.

Mr. Roulstone noted the aim of the ambitious project is not to duplicate services but fill in a gap.

‘It’s something we think is missing from our tourism product.’

Boosting its profile, expanding community programming, increasing membership and enhancing its sites are among other goals set out in the five-year plan, which was adopted last weekend at a Trust council meeting in Cayman Brac. Introducing a cooking class using local foods, for example, would be part of its community programming and a way to attract new members.

Meanwhile, the Trust is dealing with immediate concerns including finding a permanent home. It’s now operating out temporary quarters in the old Webster House on South Church Street in George Town. Mr. Roulstone said the Trust is still deciding whether to rebuild its heavily damaged headquarters off Eastern Avenue.

He said work is progressing on its restoration and clean-up projects. The southern end of the Mastic Trail is expected to re-open in two weeks with restoration of the Governor Gore Bird Sanctuary in Spotts-Newlands and Heritage Beach in Frank Sound next on the agenda.

Its historic walking tours have been revamped to take into account Ivan’s alterations, with information and maps of the sites now being re-published.

The Know Your Islands programme – a series of walks, presentations and classes – is back up and running with the first event, a mangrove boat tour, set for Saturday.

Among other activities on tap is a bird survey in March to determine which species of the local population have been most affected by the hurricane. Events to celebrate Earth Week in April include a 5-K fun run, art auction, replanting of native trees and mangrove boat tour.

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