FREEPORT, Grand Bahama, February 6, 2020 — The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism & Aviation (BMOTA) along with members of the media visited the Rand Nature Center and Garden of the Groves on Tuesday, February 4 for site inspections and briefings on the parks’ restoration and progress since Hurricane Dorian.
The Garden of the Groves and Rand Nature Center are both centrally located and popular among tourists, each drawing hundreds of visitors daily. The parks showcase The Bahamas’ natural beauty with winding trails through native and nonindigenous trees and plants. Both centers are also a great visit for fans of wildlife, particularly bird watchers.
The Rand Nature Center, protected by the Bahamas National Trust (BNT), is 100 acres of pine forest and coppice but is also home to a wildlife pond and native plant arboretum. BNT Grand Bahama Parks Manager, Ellsworth Weir said his organization has big plans for improving the park.
Noting that the BNT has spent recent months restoring the Lucayan National Park, Weir said, “We plan to shift focus to the Rand Nature Center within the next month. Once we do that, the focus will be on getting the arboretum, ponds and the trails back up to top notch. We will be focusing on that with a view to have the back area of the park up and running by April.”
Still, Weir said that at least 100 visitors tour the park each day.
Similarly, Garden of the Groves Manager, Marilyn Laing said the garden has a daily average of 100 visitors.
The Garden of the Groves reopened on December 1 after restorations and have since welcomed cruise ship passengers, residents and school groups. With the garden being fully operational, Laing said guests are encouraged to return to the park for parties, special events, lunches or just a fun family outing.
“Our café here is a great spot,” Laing said. “We have our local artisans who showcase the crafts they make. Then if you want to do your weddings and birthday parties, this is a great venue. Coming to the Garden of the Groves should meet any criteria that you have for fun or business.”
During the tour on Tuesday, Garden of the Groves President, Erika Gates brought focus to a 50-year-old fig tree at the park’s entrance that was uprooted during the storm. She explained that the tree would become a memorial for victims of Hurricane Dorian.
“I looked at this tree, how it’s fighting to come back by putting out its limbs and leaves and stretching out toward heaven. I thought this would be a perfect tribute to those who have lost their lives,” Gates said. “So, we’ve dedicated this tree. We’re fixing up the environment around it and we will also create a flower bed around the roots and make it very beautiful for all visitors to see.”
Steven Johnson, BMOTA general manager for Grand Bahama, commended the managers of both nature parks on moving so quickly to restore and reopen the centers. He noted that both sites are vital to Grand Bahama’s tourism product and said he is thrilled to see visitors frequenting the attractions regularly.
“The resilience of these parks is just incredible,” Johnson said. “The Rand Nature Center and Garden of the Groves are staples in the community of Grand Bahama. We have visitors who come in just to see our natural environment, so it’s important for us to keep these parks open. We want the world to see the beauty that’s here, not just on our beaches, so we’re calling not only on visitors but residents to support these parks.”