Lumber from Cayman’s airport A-frame finds new home

The iconic A-frame waving gallery at Owen Roberts International Airport, scene of many a welcome and farewell since the mid-1980s, closed in 2017. – PHOTO: TANEOS RAMSAY

Prior to the new multi-million-dollar makeover of the Owen Roberts International Airport, residents and visitors alike would eagerly wait at the waving gallery to either greet or say a final goodbye to family and friends.

In 2017, the new security regulations meant the open-air gallery had to be permanently enclosed. So, the iconic cedar wood A-frame, which had stood in place for more than 35 years, was torn down and replaced with glass, steel beams and iron rods.

However, not all the wood was destined for the scrap heap. The Cayman Islands Airports Authority teamed up with McAlpine Ltd. to donate several large pieces of the lumber to make benches for the Rotary Schoolhouse in the Children’s Garden at Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park.

The Rotary Schoolhouse at the Children’s Garden in Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park.

“It fills me with a sense of pride and nostalgia to know that a piece of Cayman’s history, that was once an iconic feature of ORIA will serve another grand purpose in the community,” said Albert Anderson, CEO of the Airports Authority, in a press release. “We are thrilled to be a part of the exciting venture with the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park and contributing partners to bring the Children’s Garden and Rotary Schoolhouse project to life for generations to enjoy.”

The benches have been filled with a small plaque which highlights the donation, and the history of the wood.

From left, Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park General Manager John Lawrus, CIAA CEO Albert Anderson and McAlpine Managing Director Ian Pairaudeau try out the repurposed cedar wood benches inside the Children’s Garden schoolhouse.

“Children, just by sitting on the benches, passively learn about our important heritage and the importance of recycling and re-purposing valuable resources, which was a common practice in the early years of the Cayman Islands,” said Ian Pairaudeau, managing director of McAlpine. “Nothing was wasted. That, in itself, is an extremely important message that needs to be shared.”

The Children’s Garden has been in the botanic park’s pipeline since 1994, then called the Discovery Garden. The idea was revisited in 2015, and in 2018 development on the project officially began.

A small plaque has been fastened to each bench, highlighting the origin of the wood.

The benches are currently located inside the Rotary Schoolhouse in the Children’s Garden. Work is ongoing, and the botanic park is currently seeking donations to build more benches. The next phase of the garden will see an observation tower and a discovery pond being built.

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  1. What wrong with y’all? Honestly, I cannot understand why you’d tear down, trash and DUMP one of the island’s most iconic and loved structures which could have easily been incorporated into your new mini-Heathrow thing you got going on. That hunk of “junk” was what we couldn’t wait to see as the plane touched down because it meant you were back on-island, friends were waiting, family wildly waving and those wooden beams brought the biggest smile to your face and warmth to your heart. Seems all that the island wants is concrete, glass and steel which is fine but you have forsaken all the island charm and are now instead just a reconstituted copy of the other islands. It be a tragedy that you don’t realise it isn’t about being like the other islands but reinventing what you have while retaining your uniqueness. If I could find that wood, I’d have hauled it off that scrap heap and taken it home. Y’all just lost the plot.