Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve—the First of its Kind in the Caribbean—Opens in the Bahamas

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The Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve, a 25-acre sanctuary created jointly by the Bahamas National Trust and the Leon Levy Foundation, opened on March 24.

Located in Governor’s Harbour, Eleuthera, the preserve is the first National Park on Eleuthera and the first of its kind in the Caribbean.

Designed by world renowned landscape architect Raymond Jungles and subtropical plant expert, Dr. Ethan Freid, the Bahamas National Trust envisions the preserve as a living, outdoor classroom and community center, where residents, visitors and students have an opportunity to learn about native flora and fauna, as well as how native plants were used medicinally throughout the island’s history and evolution.

The preserve entry features a tropical sanctuary, continuing to a mile-long trail, which crosses over a waterfall, through a mangrove swamp and groves of medicinal plants, to finally a lookout tower offering breathtaking views of the beach and the Atlantic Ocean. Over 171 species of indigenous plants and more than 34 species of birds, including the Antillean Bullfinch, are found in the preserve. Additionally, over 100 varieties of medicinal plants are among the 2,000 native trees, shrubs and herbs recently added to the site. In addition to the flora and fauna, the preserve also showcases Eleuthera’s rich history and prehistory.

Leon Levy, a Wall Street financier, who founded the Oppenheimer Mutual Funds and gives the preserve its name, fell in love with Eleuthera and was intrigued by the medicinal value of the plants growing on the island, which had been used by generations of Bahamians for “bush medicine.” He was deeply concerned this generational medicinal plant knowledge would be lost.

After Levy’s death, Levy’s widow Shelby White, approached the Bahamas National Trust about creating an appropriate memorial to her husband on Eleuthera where the couple had a home for many years.

At the opening ceremony of the preserve, Ms White shared, “Working with the Bahamas National Trust as our partners, I believe we have created the finest nature preserve in the Bahamas, a place that will make Eleuthera a must-visit tourist destination and of which we will all be proud.”

Bahamas National Trust Executive Director Eric Carey added, “I’m extremely proud as an Eleutheran to see this happen. This is a dream realized after much hard work and its focus on bush medicine will stand as fitting memorial to Leon Levy who wanted to see this important Bahamian tradition celebrated.”

President of the New York Botanical Garden, Gregory Long said “We are greatly impressed with what the Leon Levy Foundation and the Bahamas National Trust have accomplished on this beautiful site. The preserve’s three-pronged mission of conservation, preservation, and research resonates very strongly with the Garden’s own goals, which we have pursued in the Bahamas and the wider Caribbean region generally, for more than a century. We are pleased to count the preserve as the Garden’s newest institutional partner in the Caribbean.”

Grand opening attendees included Mrs. Robin Symonette , wife of the Deputy Prime Minister and members of the Bahamas National Trust Council; Eric Carey, Executive Director of the Trust; Shelby White, founding Trustee of the Leon Levy Foundation; Gregory Long, President of the New York Botanical Garden, local government officials, community members and others.

Closing note: The Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve has already injected more than $2 million into the local economy.

About the Leon Levy Foundation:  The Leon Levy Foundation, founded in 2004, is a private, not-for-profit foundation created from the estate of Leon Levy, an investor with a longstanding commitment to philanthropy. The Foundation’s overarching goal is to support scholarship at the highest level, ultimately advancing knowledge and improving the lives of individuals and society at large.

About the Bahamas National Trust: The Bahamas National Trust is a non-profit membership organization with statutory responsibility for management of over 25 national parks and protected. The BNT is a unique collaboration of the private, scientific and government sectors, with notable conservation accomplishments over the past 50 years. For more information, call (242) 367-6310, email bnt@bnt.bs, or visit www.bnt.bs.