$15m to restore Lopinot Historical Complex

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

The Count House at the Lopinot Historical Complex is one of the buildings to be restored by the Ministry of Tourism. – Angelo Marcelle

Tourism, Culture and the Arts Minister Randall Mitchell said the third phase of the restoration of the Lopinot Historical Complex will cost $15 million.

Speaking at the sod-turning ceremony for the project on Saturday, Mitchell said the money will be used for refurbishment of the Count House, the Jail House, the Cocoa House, and generally the entire estate.

“This includes complete upgrades to each of those buildings, including roof and floor repairs, replacement of doors and windows, plumbing, electrical work, painting, CCTV camera upgrades and more.”

He said following the transfer of the Lopinot Historical Complex from the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries to the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts in July 2022, significant progress has been made through a few infrastructural upgrades and maintenance initiatives.

“Notable improvements have been implemented in refurbishing the security booth, the tank farm, and the facility lighting throughout the complex already. Reflecting on the achievements of phase I and phase II, which included the upgrade of the washroom facilities and the reconstruction of the popular and well-known pedestrian bridge, it is evident that these enhancements have already had a positive impact on the complex.”

The event also commissioned the newly restored and completed pedestrian bridge and washroom facilities.

Mitchell said the ministry has identified the Lopinot Historical Complex as a crucial tourism asset with considerable potential.

Government officials admire the scenery on the refurbished bridge at the Lopinot Historical Complex on Saturday. – Angelo Marcelle

“What we anticipate upon the completion of this project is substantial positive social impact and the provision of unique and more elusive tour experiences for a diverse range of visitors. We expect an increase in bookings at the site for weddings, photo shoots, various events, and visitors to our shores from international source markets.”

He said daily tours organised by the Lopinot Tourism Association attract over 60,000 visitors annually, injecting considerable economic value into the community each year.

“The tours not only highlight the historical significance but also provide a thriving platform for local vendors. This not only contributes to the preservation of our cultural identity but also actively stimulates revenue generation. Through the sale of the products exclusive to TT such as jams, pepper sauces, cocoa balls, chocolates and more, the community thrives while safeguarding our unique heritage.”

Mitchell said the community-based tourism initiative introduced by the ministry to residents and business owners in Lopinot last year aimed to empower more micro, small, and medium enterprises to enhance their revenue generation from tourism. Participants included businesses such as local handmade crafts, jewellery, skin care products, hikes and agricultural tours.

Mitchell said the complex will also be used to educate and inspire young people about the culture and heritage of TT.

He said the ministry was looking at a completion date of March 2025, but hoped to get it completed before then.

Lopinot/Bon Air West MP Marvin Gonzales, who Mitchell said had campaigned relentlessly for the project, said improvements in lighting, water supply and construction of water treatment plants under the Community Water Improvement Project had been carried out in conjunction with the site refurbishment. He said the Works and Transport Ministry had begun the full restoration of the Lopinot Road on a phased basis and the La Pastora side.

“This is development from a holistic perspective, as it would have made no sense to restore the site and the road is in a terrible condition, with no reliable water supply and no lighting on the road. We have addressed and fixed some of these problems.

“When this site is fully restored, there are so many entrepreneurial opportunities that can make themselves available to improve your living circumstances. Opportunities will come your way where you will be able to sell your produce because of the thousands of people who will now visit your communities and you create that space and environment for them.”

Lopinot Tourism Association CEO Donna Mora said the community was happy for the project.

“We’ve been appealing for the Ministry of Tourism to take back this site. It was under the Tourist Board in the early 80s and 90s and then it went back to the Forestry Division, which did a good job but not so good in the historical site. So we wanted this and advocated for this and now it’s come to realisation.”

“We depend on this site for work, for tours. This site brings work for people, all the people on the site are from the valley and even when we have tours, the workers gain from it because of this site. We appreciate what they’re doing and we’re happy that they’re going to make us a world-class site once again.”

with reporting by Angelo Marcelle