President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has inspected the ongoing re-development of the Big Tree Tourist site at Aprokumasi, Akyem Manso in the Eastern Region.
The re-development project involves two major activities which are the renovation of the Receptive Facility which was constructed for the Big Tree as a tourist site and upgrade of the entrance and walking trail in the Essen Epam Forest Reserve where the Big Tree is located.
The project is in line with the government’s vision of developing and upgrading tourist sites to improve the attractions and enhance the visitor experience.
Welcoming the President and his entourage to the project site, Kwadwo Odame Antwi, the CEO of the Ghana Tourism Development Company (GTDC) informed the President that the Receptive Facility was initially developed by the late Jake Obetsebi Lamptey, the then Minister of Tourism and Modernization of the Capital City in 2004 but was left to rot during the tenure of the previous government until the NPP came to power in 2017.
He said GTD decided to re-develop the facility as a matter of priority given its impact on the local community and economy.
Mr. Antwi informed the Mr Akufo-Addo that when completed the facility will have an arts and crafts souvenir shop, and herbal medicine shops, playground for children, an educational centre for studies of plant medicine, new parking area, washrooms and will also serve as an event centre.
He also informed him about the development of a new hiking trail to the Big Tree and the identification of 17 tree species with a medicinal and economic value which together with the Forestry Commission will be labelled as part of the new attraction to the site.
Expressing his appreciation for the work done, the President commended the Board Chairperson, Martin Mireku who was present at the inspection and the CEO and his team at GTDC for a good job done and asked them to ensure that the project was completed on time.
Accompanying the President was Kwakye Darfour, Eastern Regional Minister, Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, Minister of Agriculture, Kwasi Amoako Atta, Roads and Highways Minister and Kwabena Adjei Agyepong, former General Secretary of the NPP.
Other officials who welcomed the President to the site included Martin Mireku, the Board Chairman of GTDC, the MP for the Asene Akroso Manso Constituency, George Kwame Aboagye, the District Chief Executive, Alex Incoom and some Management members and staff of GTDC.
The Big Tree, which is located in the Eastern Region of Ghana is documented as the biggest tree in the whole of West Africa. The Tree which is from the Sapotaceous family and known in Akan as Baku has as its botanical name Tieghemella heckelii.
It can be found in the Essen-Epam Forest Reserve owned by the Akyem Manso Stool. The Tree has an approximated height of 66.14 metres, girth at 1.4 metres is 10.11 metres and diametre at 1.4 metres is 3.22 metres and is estimated to be over 400 years old.
The Forest Reserve is managed by the Forest Services Division of the Forestry Commission with the Big Tree within the Tourism Enclave of the Forest being managed by Ghana Tourism Development Company (GTDC).
The re-development project which started Five (5) months ago will see a general renovation of the Receptive Facility involving a complete re-roofing of the facility, renovation of toilet & urinal facilities, the designation of a visitor information centre, a cafeteria and a children’s playground.
The rest include the development and paving of a car park and the creation of an event centre to be used for social events such as parties, funerals and graduation and passing out ceremonies.
On the Big Tree and Forest Reserve side, the upgrade includes the relocation of the entrance to the forest, the construction of a wooden entry arch and the erection of a 20 metre log fencing on both sides of the entry arch.
There will also be the construction of a ticketing booth, development of new and exciting hiking trails as well as labelling of tree species with their botanical and local names for educational purposes.
The project is being financed by GTDC through its internally generated funds and will be completed and commissioned next month. It will create 15 direct jobs for people who will work as facility manager, tour guides, security, maintenance staff, shop attendants etc.
Additionally, it will generate businesses for farmers, suppliers, art and craft dealers, traditional caterers and other local businesses.