Roxborough revisited

Saturday, July 27, 2013    

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Amid the gloom cast by positive drug tests, persistent crime and a limping economy comes the news that the Right Excellent Norman Manley's birthplace at remote Roxborough in south central Manchester is finally being upgraded.

It's very much a work in progress, however the house in which the national hero was born has been partially restored to accommodate a museum. The grounds of the property have been significantly rehabilitated, the access road has been surfaced and there are plans for further development.

The Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) is paying for the the project. It has spent $11 million thus far. The Jamaica National Heritage Trust, which owns and controls the property, Institue of Jamaica, the Ministry of Culture, the Manchester Parish Council, the National Works Agency, and the South Coast Resort Board are among a host of agencies partnering to get the job done.

Planners say just over $42 million is to be spent on the overall project on a phased basis.

As this newspaper understands it, the aim is to develop an elaborate heritage tourism destination inclusive of the museum and a camp site, complete with the requisite accessories - all powered by solar technology.

As envisaged, Roxborough will not just be a destination for Jamaicans and visitors but a source of inspiration for all.

For those such as Mandeville's Mayor Mrs Brenda Ramsay who visit Roxborough on July 4 every year to celebrate Mr Manley's birth and consistently lament the absence of action, the latest developments will have beem a balm.

Of course, it can't only be about Roxborough. As former Prime Minister P J Patterson appeared to suggest, what's being done at Roxborough should be the template for other similarly important historic sites.

We note the pledge by Culture Minister Lisa Hanna that "we (Government) are determined that the birthplaces and other sites associated with people who gave so much to our nation should not lie in ruin or be overcome by neglect, overgrown vegetation and other issues related to bad weather."

Given that promise, we look forward to the appropriate restoration of the grossly neglected birthplace of the late former Prime Minister Sir Donald Sangster at Mountainside, south west St Elizabeth, which lies in ruins. Also, perhaps less urgent, but equally important, a facelift for the birthplace of another late former prime minister the Most Honourable Hugh Shearer at Martha Brae in Trelawny.

The need for a nation to respect and commemorate its heritage is obvious, but also the material rewards to be gained from an increasingly diverse and sophisticated tourism marketplace cannot be ignored. We speak not just of locals and the traditional North American and European visitor, but of a fast-growing diaspora whose interest in their Jamaican heritage will only build with time.

No matter how we may choose to look at it, proper nurturing and preservation of our heritage sites constitute a win-win.





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