Montserrat National Trust to Build Children’s Eco Park

The island’s children will soon have a beautiful and inspiring space to play. The Montserrat National Trust (MNT) on Wednesday announced EcoPlay, a children’s garden and play park, which aims to connect the local community with its ecological roots through play and innovative architecture.

A launch event will take place on Friday, 1 October 2021 at 11AM at the Montserrat National Trust in Salem.

Earlier this year the Montserrat National Trust acquired the lot of land adjacent to the botanical gardens and on the corner of the Northern Main Road and Olveston Estate Drive, to provide wholesome activities for young children on the island. The MNT then sought guidance from the The UK Overseas Territories Conservation Fund (UKOTCF) on the best way to develop the space and were put in contact with Yasmin Shariff of Dennis Sharp Architects.
Dennis Sharp Architects is a UK based architectural firm who from time to time, provide pro bono services to NGOs in developing countries. Since then, they have worked collaboratively with the MNT to produce the preliminary designs for the EcoPlay children’s park.
Yasmin Shariff of Dennis Sharp Architects and The UK Overseas Territories Conservation Fund (UKTCF) Director of Dennis Sharp Architects, Yasmin Shariff said: “Montserrat EcoPlay” brings a very special creative architectural approach that expresses who we are and where we live in a way that local people and visitors can learn from and enjoy – supporting the wellbeing and success of future generations.”

The project will provide facilities for young children under the age of 6 years as well as older children, adults, families and visitors to the island. A multi-functional building at the top of the site incorporates disabled facilities, a room for playing and learning as well as a small kitchenette. Eco features include naturally ventilated spaces with solar hot water and high levels of daylight to minimize the use of electricity. A roof terrace provides a secure play area for young children and breathtaking views across the tree canopy to the Caribbean Sea.

The island’s Governor, Andrew Pearce, commented, “Nature, especially in Montserrat, has been a great joy in my, and my wife’s, lives This imaginative project launched by the National Trust will we hope to engage the island’s youngsters and nurture in them the skills and values they will need as the next generation of custodians of our incredible planet. This Children’s ECO Park in Montserrat is a step on that journey for us all.

Premier of Montserrat Joseph E. Farrell also states: “EcoPlay contributes directly to Montserrat’s development goal of sustainable use and management of the environment and natural resources.   The Government of Montserrat highly commends this initiative spearheaded by the Montserrat National Trust, to preserve our rich biodiversity and heritage assets in a playful and creative presentation for our young people”

Director of the Montserrat National Trust, Mrs Sarita Francis said: “For over 50 years, the MNT has been involved in providing opportunities for residents on the island to appreciate and interact with Montserrat’s rich biodiversity. We have always worked with our partners on island and overseas to carry out our mandate of “Preserving the Past, Protecting the Present and Enriching the Future”. This Project is about investing in Future Generations who will have a safe, dynamic space created for learning and playing”.

Young people are actively encouraged to interact with the building and its natural features. An ‘orchid wall’ in the learning space will showcase some of the island’s unique orchid cultivars including the endemic Montserrat orchid – Epidendrum montserratense. The treehouse, climbing wall and musical play are inspired by the island’s cultural and natural heritage. At the heart of the scheme lies an amphitheater for storytelling and events. Growing terraces encourage young people to get their hands dirty and get involved in cultivation of a variety of plants e.g. healthy food, medicinal plants, endemics.

Executive Director of the UK based NGO, UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum said: “Many of the future custodians of the extraordinary and unique wildlife found on Montserrat will have some of their first sound, taste, smell, touch experiences of nature at EcoPlay. They will be given the freedom, in those important early years, to see the joy, inspiration and other benefits humans can gain from time in nature. As a long-term partner, we are delighted again to help Montserrat National Trust in this exciting project and are pleased to welcome others in supporting conservation in the UK’s Overseas Territories.”

Caribbean Programmes Manager for Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, Luke Jones said: “The MNT have been working in collaboration with the local government and international NGO’s for decades in their mandate to conserve and protect the valuable Heritage of this unique Caribbean island. This facility will provide countless opportunities for new generations of youth to engage and connect with both their natural and cultural heritage. Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust have partnered with MNT in developing novel opportunities and nature connection strategies to ensure youth and the greater community connect with the wildlife around them, this EcoPlay centre will be an excellent asset in ensuring that vision is met.”

Out of the ashes of the tragic volcanic eruption that devastated most of the island and completely obliterated the capital city of Plymouth, EcoPlay brings hope and an opportunity for regeneration and inclusiveness especially for young people and the wildlife of the island.