A voice from Charlotteville

Over the period March 28 to 30, Environment Tobago’s former president and current vice president Patricia Turpin is attending the GEF-7 Replenishment Meeting in Paris. This meeting is the start of several sessions in which the Global Environmental Facility (a fund established in 1991 to tackle the biggest environmental problems on the planet), will consider what funding is needed to address, halt and reverse environmental degradation. This feature first appeared in Tobago Newsday, March 30, 2017.

Charlotteville Tobago may be a long way from Paris France. For Patricia Turpin, Charlotteville is home, and Paris is one of many cities where Turpin attends to the business of securing the environmental health and wellbeing of home, the islands of Trinidad and Tobago, and the wider Caribbean. Charlotteville, she believes, may yet teach the nation a thing or two about conservation.

Though she was born in San Fernando, Turpin has grown conservationist roots in Tobago where she manages the extensive Charlotteville Estates; carrying on the tourism business with the Man-o-War Bay cottages; and embarking on revitalization of cocoa plantations which had been abandoned since the 1990s. She has been told that trees here might include some precious and old criollo strains.

Over a hundred years before, in 1865, Joseph Turpin the Anglican Bishop of St Vincent acquired Charlotteville Estate and began the conversion of sugar plantations to cocoa. The estate leased land to tenant farmers who tended the trees, harvested and dried the cocoa beans for export. Edmund Turpin (the son) subsequently became Bishop of Tobago. His sons merged the Charlotteville and Pirates Bay estates. One son was the Crown Surveyor of lands for Trinidad and Tobago, and the other a conservation-minded game warden in Uganda.

Streets in Charlotteville ascend into the rainforest.
Charlotteville was planned and laid out like a typical English village, with the recreational and communal village square in the middle. Taking into account the topography and watershed areas, roads and drainage followed the contours around a natural deepwater harbour. The 1930s Turpin environmental plan included areas designated for forestry and wildlife, a town plan, timber and agriculture which included a million cocoa trees on 400 acres. The life cycles of fish in the bay were studied, and the first list of pelagic species in the area was created, still used by fisheries officers in Tobago today.

Charlotteville on the sea
The first tourist cottages on the beach were built in the mid 1960s after the marshland had been drained and filled. Before that, the area was pasture for cows and horses. There was a visitor market for those first four cottages amid lush gardens facing the sea. Today, there are nine cottages, with a capacity for 40 persons altogether. The main clients are independent or university-based researchers and students; Canadian and US universities, and more frequently, groups from UWI.

“There’s greatest demand from May to August,” Turpin confirms, “but we’ve been reasonably occupied since this year started.” Though Turpin feels that ‘tourism business’ was forced on her, she claims to be an advocate of ‘educational tourism’ for as long as the island’s conservation organization Environment Tobago (ET) has been in existence.  

Environment Tobago (ET) was established in 1996 as a civil society organization (non-governmental, non-profit, volunteer advocacy group) with the intention to “educate, spread awareness and campaign against negative environmental practices in Tobago.”

ET’s most ambitious advocacy proposal may be to designate a marine protected area around the north of Tobago that extends “from Roxborough around the north coast (encompassing Little Tobago and the St Giles Islands) to Bloody Bay (encompassing the Brothers and Sisters islands) across the Reserve road back to Roxborough. Extending out to sea for six nautical miles, these areas will offer protections and management to terrestrial and marine areas of Tobago.”

However, ET is also mindful of the many small and individual actions against conservation; as well as the need for policy, legislation and education to make its purpose understood and widespread. Environment Tobago has an eye on all of Tobago: plastic waste on Atlantic beaches; the health of the Bon Accord Lagoon and Buccoo Reef; pollution and water resources; land development and runoff. In association with the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, ET conducts a series of educational camps and outreach programmes every year.

ET is currently mounting a campaign in support of Councillor Kwesi des Vignes to ban polystyrene and plastics in Tobago. 

ET came into being shortly after the Global Environmental Facility was created in 1994, and the GEF CSO network in 1995. They serve common purposes for the welfare of nations and the planet. According to Turpin: “Environment Tobago is a member of the GEF CSO network for about eight years. Two years ago, ET was elected from members of the network to represent the (Caribbean) region. The current president Bertrand Bhikarry and I attend the GEF Council and the CSO network meetings held in Washington DC.

Over the past few years, Patricia Turpin has represented Environment Tobago as a member of the CSO network of the Global Environmental Facility. (Photo courtesy Patricia Turpin)
“At the Council meetings, we act as observers, we comment on policy and the allocation of funds for environmental and biodiversity conservation against climate change, land and oceanic degradation, and chemical pollution.

“Different countries –183 members in GEF - are at different levels of working towards conserving the planet. It is interesting to see the attitudes and levels of information. Sometimes, this can be very frustrating.” Such insights inform and support ET’s work in Tobago.

In Charlotteville, she is grateful for the foresight of the Turpin ancestors; the cohesion of a community of old families, Nicholson, Murray, Carrington and so many others; and the tolerance and patience of citizens. She is happy to work with other educational conservation groups, and recently provided new operating space for ERIC the Environmental Research Institute of Charlotteville. She is hopeful that the work she is doing will keep Charlotteville intact; with positive impacts on the rest of Tobago and Trinidad; and that it will not be too late. (Pat Ganase)

View of the waterfront from the jetty (Photos of Charlotteville by Pat Ganase)


history of Charlotteville:



Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog


Treasures of the Bon Accord Lagoon