Tuesday, August 30, 2005

£2M for Upper Rock 3 year programme gets underway

Upper Rock Nature Reserve in Gibraltar © Kelly A Loddo
By Alice Mascarenhas

Around £2 million will be spent by the Government over the next three years to improve the Upper Rock Nature Reserve.

The Gibraltar Tourist Board (GTB) has put into motion the three-year programme announced during the Budget Session of the House of Assembly by Tourism Minister Joe Holliday which will upgrade both the present sites and see the introduction of new attractions.

Joe Holliday yesterday morning toured the various sites looking to see how some of the proposals are going to be integrated into the new visitor experience of this major tourist attraction which attracts some 750,000 visitors a year.

The main works will begin after the summer. Mr Holliday was keen to point out that this was just phase one of the project for which £650,000 had already been allocated for major improvements in this area in this financial year.

In its initial stages the project will enhance some of the already popular sites.

St. Michael's Cave has interested visitors to Gibraltar since the days of the Romans. Nowadays, often used for public Concerts, The Cave was long believed to be bottomless, giving birth to the story that Gibraltar was linked to the continent of Africa by a subterranean passage 15 miles (24 kilometres) long.The Minister toured St Michael’s Cave, the Apes Den, Princess Caroline’s Battery, the new Rock and Fortress experience. He was presented with a general view of all the sites to see how the project was coming along and what would develop.

Mr Holliday confirmed that the much needed enhancements of both Royal Anglian Way and Mediterranean Steps would be a part of this project. However, neither of these will be tackled in the first year.

Signage, railings and much needed toilet facilities will be included in this first phase.

A Barbary Macaque resident of the Ape's Den in Gibraltar and babyA new apes den site will also be developed. Situated at Trovey Battery half way between the current apes den and Princess Caroline’s Battery. The aim is to relocate some of the ape packs to this area to enhance their quality of life.

Mr Holiday said this would change the concept of how we view the apes today with less interaction with the visitor in this area. One of the main reasons for doing this is because visitors continue feed the apes despite the warnings.

“That is where the future lies, we cannot continue to allow visitors to integrate with these animals at the levels they always have because it is not good for the animals.”

Mr Holliday said GONHS (Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society) would continue to be involved with the apes project and given its own advise and had its own input on how to create a new and better experience all round and at the same time improve the quality of life of the animals.

“The improvements are for the well being of the apes which is paramount. And to also ensure the visitor enjoys the experience more,” assured Mr Holliday who also insisted the three year investment programme of this area was to ensure Gibraltar kept on upgrading this area, and also bringing it into line with visitor expectation.

“It is our main tourist attraction and we have to do the very best we can,” he added.

“The feedback we get from the visitors generally is very favourable. People enjoy the experience as it is now and it is one they look forward to,” he said.

The investment has been possible following the increase in the entrance ticket to the Upper Rock Nature Reserve as from April 12 this year.

“This will allow us more flexibility and to be able to invest in the product further,” he added.

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Some images reproduced by kind permission of David Parody's Interactive Map of Gibraltar @ Dotcom.gi

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