Group at table

The Natural Heritage Department originated as the Environmental Special Projects Unit (ESPU) in 1996, for the purpose of managing an Integrated Development Programme (IDP), which consist of three study areas - The Feasibility studies of Harrison's Cave and Associated sites, Carlisle Bay and Folkestone Park and Marine Reserve. The department took the IDP through Prefeasibility, Feasibility, Detail Design, and in the case of the Harrisons Cave Component Construction/Civil works. The pursuit of integrated Environmental Planning through the Barbados National Park System is therefore the function of The Natural Heritage Department.

Nov 1989 - Feb 1996 preliminary studies and proposals were undertaken to consider the redevelopment of Harrison's Cave, then managed by the National Conservation Commission (NCC).

Feb 1996 The Government of Barbados applies to the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) for technical and financial assistance.

April 1996 Environmental Special Projects Unit is established to provide exclusive focus for the Harrison's Cave redevelopment.

Aug 1996 NCC seeks pre qualification Expressions of Interest from international consultants to undertake feasibility studies.

Feb 1997 Invitations for technical and cost proposals to 8 short listed multi-disciplinary firms from original 26 responses.

June 1997 the Government of Barbados signs loan agreement with CDB.

July 1997 Government of Barbados enters into contract negotiations with AXYS Environmental Consulting (Barbados) Limited representing the consortium of AXYS (Canada) in association with Environmental Planning Group Ltd. (Barbados) and Gillispie and Steel Associates Ltd. (Barbados). This consortium would eventually comprise a collection of 20+ consulting groups and institutions from Barbados, Canada, and United Kingdom.

March 1998 AXYS contract approved, signed and work commences on the Feasibility Studies for Harrison's Cave, Folkestone Park and Carlisle Bay Marine Recreational Park.

March 2000 Final reports for three study areas submitted to Government of Barbados by the Consortium.

January 2004 Government decides to focus resources on Harrison's Cave and launches next project managed by ESPU – Phase II Detailed Design: Harrison’s Cave and Associated Sites. Final report and designs submitted in March 2005.

April 2006 Procurement programme for new trams launches the redevelopment programme implementation and construction phases. China State Engineering Construction Company (CSECC) awarded construction contract.

July 2009 Harrison's Cave closes all operations to facilitate final construction phases.

February 2010 Harrison's Cave officially re-opens to the public.