Forestry Stories: Edmund Forest house, Central Forest Reserve, St. Lucia
This interesting note was shared via e-mail by Rolfe A. Leary (PhD) who is a retired Research Forester residing in St. Paul, Minnesota, USA. Rolfe was Gabriel Charles’ counterpart in the first USA Peace Corps (PC) group in St. Lucia; the 4th PC group to go out from the get-go. During his time in St. Lucia in the early 1960s he resided at the now old forestry house at Edmund Forest (within the Government Central Forest Reserve) with Gabriel and his wife Margaret. Rolfe was back in St. Lucia in the 1990s volunteering with an NGO, Compatible Technology International, which had secured a grant from Weyerhaeuser Family Foundation to develop hand papermaking skills in St. Lucia. In about 2000 or so he brought Finola Prescott and Kenny James to Minnesota for a couple weeks to learn hand papermaking.
Edmund Forest is the western region of the Central Forest Reserve A and was named by William G. Lang, St. Lucia’s first Supervisor of Forests, after the forest ranger who took care of that area.
Rolfe (pictured in 1963 on the road to the Moule-a-Chique Lighthouse) writes about the Edmund Forest house (in the Central Forest Reserve near Mt. Gimie) and his visits to St. Lucia over the years.
“The house had not yet been completed in October 1961 when I arrived with Peace Corps Group One. When it was ready for living in, I brought my trunk in a Land Rover to where the road ended — at the Purchase house (blown down by a hurricane — can’t remember which) and one of the muscly laborers put it on his head and walked it down the path to the house. It wasn’t too many months later that they pushed the road down to the house with a big bulldozer. Of course it still had to be ‘bouldered’ and then smaller rocks added for a driving surface.
Gabriel and Margaret and I lived there for a few months after they were married (the Charles family lived there between 1961 and 1965). I had a motor cycle, so I would get out of there on the weekends and stay in Castries. Riding up the west coast (in 1961) was an experience – only crashed once — going up (headed north) out of Roseau valley following a truck hauling sugar cane. Some had fallen out and been squashed on the road — making it slippery.
Next time I saw the house was during our family visit in 1986 or 7. By then the place was not occupied, but still livable — we went inside to check it out. The last picture was taken by Carol Watkins (pictured below) in 2006. Carol was a teacher trainer in our group and was returning for a visit.
I gave her two pictures — one of the road bouldering crew I had taken in 1961, and another of Lucille (cook), and two workers (Clavence and John – sorry don’t know their last names). Carol took the picture through Fond St.Jacques and asked everyone she met if they recognized anyone in the photo. Apparently there was keen interest in the photo (partly because all the workers were barefoot!) but there was only one person in the image of workers that anyone recognized. He had died 5 years earlier (2001) but his wife was still living there — and they had 5 daughters, one of whom Carol met during her outing. It was a very nice thing for Carol to do and she wrote up a splendid report complete with pictures of lots of folks — including some Forestry employees — looking at the pictures.”
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Wanderful and splendid, this adds to our rich St. Lucian history and tells some of the great stories of the Forestry Department. Edmund Forest Reserve has played a central role in the history of forestry and has been the heartbeat of forestry activities. All of us foresters who worked and lived there can atest to that. It is my sincere hope that the damage inflicted by Hurricane Tomas will not leave the area burried like rubble.
this is great. love it. many, many fond memories of the two years I lived there. Will send pics when I can
Excellent story! Brings up fond memories of the many hikes and photo expeditions in that area with Peter Jackson. I haven’t been there since hurricane Tomas and scincerely hope that the Fond St. Jacques community will recover, as the portal to my favorite part of the island.
They just reopened the road last month. Drove all the way to the EFR house with my wife. The place is just astonishingly beautiful.
The road to the Edmund Forest reserve that comes from Fond St. Jacques has now been repaired and provides safe access to 4×4 vehicles. There is a chain that was installed last week to prevent access to the reserve itself, but those interested in visiting can contact the Forestry department for a guided visit to the reserve.
Thanks Olmedo for this update!
Great work brother Cox This is a rich piece of history and in my opinion, the best way to start the untold Forestry stories. I will be part of this wonderful knowledge base, my only problem is the lack of photos to complement some of the finest experiences while working at the Forestry Department. Blessed love to all.
Thanks Jahba and thanks for your contribution here! True, we worked mainly in the days before smart phones with cameras so the visual record is scarce. Would love for you to share your thoughts and reflections on your career working all these years at Forestry on this forum when you have time!
I visited that house a couple times and slept in the cabin in the middle of the forest for the Parrot Census in 1999? I think all those cabins should be restored and Forestry seriously undertake ecotourism camping tours.
Caribbean SEA has held camps at the La Porte cabin every summer from 2002. Every year the children ask that we make our camps longer . Some parents ask to come camping with us too. There is definitely a demand for that. Post COVID-19 I will explore that. Forestry needs to worse this opportunity to get Lucians out into nature and learn about the fauna and flora we have.
Thanks for this reflection Nadia! For sure more can be done to get kids ‘under the bush’ and you have been doing great work in this regard! Keep it up.
What fun to read about my attempt to find St. Lucians who recognized the people in Rolfe’s picture from the 6o’s. That was one of the most interesting activities I had on my many trips back to St. Lucia: 19 in all. The last trip was in 2014. On one of my trips, I bought one of Chris Cox’s photos: a humming bird and torch lily, which hangs in my living room. I’ve been in “lock-down” in my retirement community since March 15, so it was great to revisit St. Lucia today to see some different scenes.
Carol, thanks so much for the comment on my blog. Thank you for also your efforts to connect with the relatoves of forestry folks who worked at Edmund Forest (in Rolfe’s photo). Nineteen trips!!! wow, St. Lucia has your heart. Thanks also for acquiring a print of one of my works…much appreciated! Stay safe in these Covid19 times! Chris
Great stuff thanks for sharing this!
Since my first post, almost 3 years ago, my wife and I purchased the land belonging to Dr. House back in the 70s and started a coffee farm. Our plants are now almost 2 years old! A Coffee Museum is in the works. Love this corner of Saint Lucia!