Out of an abundance of passion for nature, Antigua and Barbuda’s only female logger was compelled to do all in her power to protect and preserve forested areas in her beloved country.
According to Refica Attwood, it was this passion that inspired the birth of Wallings Nature Reserve which covers some 1680 acres.
The thirty-two-year-old joined her family business of cutting down trees and selling the logs to farmers, fishermen, and hotels to create fences, about six years ago.
As a young woman struggling with depression, Refica would trudge through her village of John Hughes as a coping mechanism.
She said: “I used it as a clutch for depression because there was a point in my life where I got depressed and rather than taking prescription drugs or turning to alcohol, I used to take walks.
“After I realized I was healing myself and while I was trekking, I was taking up the trash, I turned it into a passion.”
She noticed that Wallings was “neglected, dirty [and] run down.”
But the idea to turn a neglected forest into a national park came through the wise words of her father.
“I was going into the bushes with my dad one morning and we couldn’t pass because I tree had fallen and what person use to do is just walk around it but because the donkey couldn’t pass he had to come out and cut the tree.
“Dad said that he was disappointed in the behaviour of the country on a whole and the persons in John Hughes, me specifically, having left everything dirty and neglected,” Attwood recounted.
“Why should I do it?” she asked her father, and his answer was the confirmation she needed to accept a grant to develop the forest.
As she recalled, he said: “If you want to see a change you are going to have to take action.”
So, the single mother finally responded to an email received six months prior where a small grant of $50,000 was offered to her to develop Wallings.
From then, she started the process of registering Wallings as a non-profit and then had it incorporated in 2018.
On 29 October 2018, Wallings Nature Reserve first opened under a tent with porta-potties as restrooms.
Since then has grown tremendously with an administration building, restrooms that accommodate the disabled and signage.
It offers clean and safe trails for hiking, outdoor yoga spaces, areas for photo shoots, parties, weddings, and guided tours.
Attwood, the Executive Director of the national park has big plans to develop the attraction further with additional training and equipment to facilitate the efficiency of their services.
She also revealed that she plans to establish an authentic Antiguan restaurant on the property.
She also disclosed that German agency is interested in conducting a case study for 2030 on the reserve and Jamaica companies are interested in learning how lemongrass is used to create products such as lemongrass punch, soap, candles, body butter, air freshers and tea bags.
The single mother said that the goal is to create a lab where oil can be extracted from the lemongrass.
The activist ensures that fruit trees are planted wherever the abundant lemongrass is reaped.
Original Author: Latrishka Thomas | Source: https://www.loopnewscaribbean.com/content/antiguan-activist-turns-forest-attraction