REMARKS BY DEPUTY PREMIER AND MINISTER FOR EDUCATION, CULTURE, YOUTH AFFAIRS, FISHERIES AND AGRICULTURE
DR. THE HONOURABLE NATALIO D. WHEATLEY
AT THE SEVENTH SITTING OF THE THIRD SESSION OF THE
FOURTH HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
THURSDAY, APRIL 15, 2021
UPDATE ON RECREATIONAL FACILITIES IN THE TERRITORY
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to provide an update on the work being done by the Recreation Trust to ensure the fullest and most beneficial use of all public recreation grounds and other recreational facilities throughout the Territory.
Mr. Speaker, a few months ago, on 17th January, I was pleased to join the Chairman, members of the Board and staff at a church service at the Cane Garden Bay Baptist Church in observance of the fifty-fifth anniversary of the Recreation Trust Act (Cap 278) coming into force. This signaled the beginning of a series of activities in which the Trust is seeking to bring a greater level of awareness to the role of the Trust and its operations.
Nine months ago, Mr. Speaker, a new Trust was appointed, and I must place on record my sincere appreciation to the new Chairman, Mrs. Dawn Crabbe-Herbert, and the other members for the tremendous work they have been doing to improve the overall administration of the Trust and the recreational facilities in the Territory. They have made significant strides in restructuring the Trust’s operations and have been putting various measures in place to improve the efficiency of the Trust, to manage the facilities more effectively, and to ensure that the Trust is adhering to the various laws of the Virgin Islands.
In terms of financial accountability, Mr. Speaker, the Trust has been making steady progress in the implementation of its fiscal strategy. A financial management plan to control spending, the installation of software systems, such as Quick Books, for tracking the Trust’s accounting, and Visual Payroll, for managing payroll, have been some of the measures implemented to date. The Trust has also been working closely with the Office of the Auditor General to provide the relevant information for outstanding audits to ensure conformity with the requirements of the Recreation Trust Act. To date, Mr. Speaker, the audited financial statements have been completed for the years, 2004-2005 and 2010 – 2013. The documentation has been submitted for the years 2014 – 2016, so the audits are in the process of being finalised. Efforts are now being made to obtain outstanding documentation for the years 2006 – 2009, so that the information can be submitted to the Office of the Auditor General. This has been a difficult task, Mr. Speaker, so I must commend the Chairman and her team for their diligence in seeking to rectify this longstanding matter.
Mr. Speaker, maintenance of recreational facilities is a major component of the Trust’s mandate, and the maintenance team has been working diligently to fix and maintain the facilities under its care. A field schedule has been implemented where two teams are now visiting the facilities regularly. Additionally, the Trust has purchased a number of much needed equipment for the maintenance of the facilities on Tortola, including two lawnmowers, four bush cutters, one Hustler 54” zero turn lawnmower as well as a pick-up truck. The Trust is presently working on obtaining another vehicle to be assigned to Virgin Gorda. At least one other vehicle is needed to enable the Trust to better manage the maintenance of its 26 facilities, but this will only be possible with the provision of additional funding. The Trust is now finalising registration for a software programme to ensure a more effective management and maintenance programme for stakeholders’ use of its facilities.
On the sister island of Virgin Gorda, Mr. Speaker, the Trust is presently completing major renovation works at the Walters’ Park. The Virgin Gorda community has been generous in its contributions for this project, both monetary and in-kind, and for these we are extremely grateful.
To fulfill the Trust’s mandate in ensuring the effective maintenance of its facilities, during this quarter, the Trust will be working in close collaboration with other partners. The Walter’s Park, East End Park and Benjamin Romney Park will be done in partnership with the National Parks Trust. The A.O. Shirley Recreation Ground, the E. Walwyn Brewley Softball Field, the Band Stand and the Long Bush Playground will be done in partnership with the City Manager. The Trust is working closely with the Ministry of Education on works at the Sea Cow’s Bay Basketball Court to address some safety matters, restore the restroom and cleanup the area for more parking. Meanwhile, a possible donor to assist with the perimeter fencing at the Greenland field has been identified and the Trust will soon be embarking on the upkeep of the Millicent Mercer Softball Field. I also acknowledge the work being done by our partner, the Ministry of Transportation, Works, and Utilities, and the Public Works Department in cleaning up the Brewers Bay Park.
Looking ahead, Mr. Speaker, the Trust has been leading the charge on behalf of the Ministry to meet with various stakeholders for discussions on the restoration of the pavilion at the A. O. Shirley Recreation Ground. A draft outline in accordance with the collective agreement is being formulated with the Recovery and Development Agency (RDA) to get this process tabled for a phased completion.
Mr. Speaker, as the Trust seeks to ensure safe recreational facilities for the benefit of all in the Territory, we know that greater financial investments will have to be made. With all the works being done, Mr. Speaker, the Government’s annual subvention to the Trust has remained constant. Therefore, in the not too distant future, the Trust will embark on a review of its tariff and services with the aim of determining where its revenue streams can be increased. I am grateful to the Chairman and the members of the Trust for the many strides made during the short period of their appointment and wish to express my profound gratitude to them for their dedication to duty. I would also like to thank the many donors who have been coming forward to support the work of the Trust by making various forms of donations. I also invite others who have been contemplating making a donation to come forward and support the work of the Trust.
Thank you Mr. Speaker.