The dual-island nation of Antigua and Barbuda wants to create a new national park focused on its highest peak, which will soon be renamed Mount Obama. Plans for the new park are sort of sketchy and iffy.
If you have a better-than-average grasp of world geography, you already know that Antigua and Barbuda is a tropical nation consisting of two main islands, plus a batch of islets, in the northern Lesser Antilles (aka Leeward Islands) on the eastern edge of the Caribbean Sea. But did you know that the highest mountain in this tiny nation is southwestern Antigua’s 1,319-foot Boggy Peak? And did you know that Boggy Peak will be renamed Mount Obama on August 4?
August 4 will be Barack Obama’s 48th birthday. The Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Baldwin Spencer, says he’ll invite the U.S. President to attend the renaming ceremony.
Prime Minister Spencer says that his country would like to create Mount Obama Monument and National Park, a preserve with a network of hiking trails, a museum, and various entertainment and educational facilities.
There are cultural as well as physical resources to be preserved and interpreted. Long ago, runaway slaves gathered and hid in the Boggy Peak forest. Gruesome things happened there. After a slave revolt in 1687, many runaways were killed or captured at Boggy Peak. The leaders of the revolt were later burned alive.
How much the new park would cost – and how it is to be funded – are details that haven’t yet been worked out.
Prime Minister Spencer has characterized the new park as a "beacon of hope for all people." What he really means is that he hopes the park will be a beacon for international tourists. This tiny (174 square miles), newly independent (1981) nation, most of whose 70,000 or so residents are descendents of slaves who worked the tobacco and sugarcane fields in colonial times, depends very heavily on tourism. More than half of its economy is accounted for by visitor-based industry of one sort or another.
Whether the proposed new park will ever be established is an interesting question, and whether such a park could attract international tourists in worthwhile numbers is an even more intriguing one. One is left to hope that, at the very least, a new park will be created at Boggy Peak – whoops, I mean Mount Obama! – to preserve scenic, biologic, cultural, and recreational resources that might otherwise be degraded or lost.