Photos: BZS Environmental Youth Conference

November 17, 2018 | 4 Comments

[Written by Don Burgess]

Students from various middle and high schools presented ideas of what to do with the Southlands National Park to Public Works Minister Lt/Col David Burch, and some of those ideas might be utilized to help make Southlands a natural treasure.

The Bermuda Zoological Society held a two-day Environmental Youth Conference on November 14th and 15th, sponsored by the Stempel Foundation.

The conference theme was “The Importance of Preserving Open Spaces” and focused on the 37-acre Southlands property, which has again fallen into a state of neglect and disrepair.

The first day of the conference the students were based at the Bermudiana Beach/Grand Atlantic condominiums. They hiked along the trails at Southlands and heard from a variety of speakers throughout their walk.

After the walk, they had seminars from six different speakers: Dr Ayesha Talbot on Health and Wellbeing; Sean Dickinson on Mountain Biking; and from the Parks Department on the Challenges of Parks. They also heard from Judy Moyter on Sustainability Center, from Hidden Gems’ Ashley Harris on Ecotourism, and Chris Faria on Farming.

The second day of the conference they saw a presentation from Mandy Shailer from the Department of Natural Resources.

Afterwards, the students went on one of six field trips: Trunk Island, Walsingham Nature Reserve, the Community Gardens at Trimingham Hill, Verdmont Museum, Botanical Garden, and Southlands where they culled invasives.

The students then worked in groups on their presentations which they showed to Minister Burch and Stephen Tucker, the Acting Director of Parks.

Dr Jamie Bacon, who organised the conference, told Bernews, “I was thrilled with how well the Youth Conference went. The students were amazing. But we also had wonderful teachers who accompanied them and fantastic volunteer guides, speakers and facilitators.

“Southlands is a national treasure, and I think the students came up with some excellent ideas of how Southlands could be utilised by the entire community. I also believe they gained a better understanding of how precious Bermuda’s open space is.”

Lt/Col Burch admitted Southlands was an area within the Parks Department that “gets the least amount of attention, and we make that declaration without fear of contradiction. The Ministry has a huge responsibility and the Department of Parks, in particular, have had the greatest challenges since we took over. Not only in terms of replacing staff and equipment but also resources.”

He was glad the students had an opportunity to see how huge Southlands is, saying: “Not only is it huge, but it has an incredible variety of experiences just by walking the grounds, so we’ve had a real challenge in trying to figure out; one, what to do with it in terms of its management?And two, how we can maintain it so it can be for the benefit of all of Bermuda?”

He added that the work the students have done and the recommendations that they made would aid the Parks Department greatly in managing Southlands.

Mr Tucker told the students, “I like the diversity [of ideas] you all came up with. It is very creative. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Some of the ideas you put forward we want to implement. The Minister have already talked, and these are excellent ideas.

One of the ideas many of the groups mentioned was making sure there was a bee colony on the property so it could help with the three agricultural plots. He also liked the ideas for activities on the property which included mountain biking, a zip line, and hiking trails among others.

Mr Tucker added, “Southlands is a very unique property. There are so many [planning] zones and opportunities there. So I am really encouraged by the dedication, and the attention to detail you put into this so thank you very much.”

Dr. Ian Walker, Principal Curator BAMZ, said, “The Bermuda Zoological Society would like to thank the Stempel Foundation for their generosity in sponsoring the BZS Environmental Youth Conference and other programmes. It is so very valuable that youth gain an understanding and appreciation of our fragile envioment and how to protect it. The Stempel Foundation’s support allows educational opportunities like these to happen and the BZS are most grateful to them.”

BAMZ Southlands Bermuda November 2018 (1)

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Comments (4)

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  1. Kimberley Smith says:

    Congratulations to all on what sounds and appears to have been a very informative and productive youth conference.

  2. Mixed Messages says:

    What the heck does mountain (dirt) biking have to do with protecting and respecting the natural environment? It is destructive, long term. You are sending confusing and hypocritical messages to these youth Shame on you

  3. Connected Community says:

    What a wonderful gift from the Stemple Foundation – involving our youth in a meaningful programme to identify a better use of Southlands.

    Thanks to all involved.

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