The Sandy Bay Environmental Field Centre will be closed as its Steering Group has found that running the centre is no longer economically viable. The Office of the Chief Secretary is now inviting suggestions from members of the public for what the building should be used for.
Originally the Sandy Bay School and then opened as a field centre in 1997, the overall aim was to have a place that would educate pupils and teachers about the environment and ecology of St Helena; provide an educational centre equipped for day visitors; provide residential facilities for adults and children who might want to camp there, and provide an interpretative centre for the people of the Island.
Pamela Lawrence, Chief Education Officer, said that the Steering Group felt that it would no longer be practical to run an environmental centre for a number of reasons.
Obtaining funding was the first problem as no monies were committed to the day to day running of the premises. Funding had to be raised through a "Steering Group". Since the opening of the centre, other organisations have been established with similar aims, and it was felt that if the centre remained open everyone would be competing for the same funds in order to achieve the same objectives.
While the original idea was that school children could visit the centre to participate in environmental activities, schools found that it was not cost effective and very time consuming to be travelling to the centre because of its location and the fact that children are able to pursue environmental education in their schools.
Shortage of volunteers to sit on the Steering Committee was another problem. With current staffing problems and the pressure of work in general, it is not practical to ask teachers to work after hours to organise activities and raise funds. It has not been possible to employ someone to manage the day to day running of the centre without a budget and the Education Department felt that this would have been necessary if the centre was to be a success.
Some of the equipment will remain in the centre, depending on what its future use is to be, and other equipment will be transferred to schools, the new museum and possibly the National Trust.
The Office of the Chief Secretary invites members of the public to put forward suggestions for what the building should be used for. Gillian Francis, Assistant Secretary said that the OCS is hoping to get ideas from people by the end of June so that a decision can be taken. Members of Legislative Council and Government Departments are also being consulted on the matter.