Shameful neglect of Navy Island

Thursday, October 18, 2012    

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SOMETIMES we feel that we're on a treadmill. A mere three months after we had reason in this space to highlight the need for this country to treat historical sites and munuments with great respect and importance, we are forced to reiterate that call.

On Monday this week, the Observer North East reported on the shameful neglect that has resulted in Navy Island now standing in ruin.

For the benefit of our younger readers, Navy Island was, in the 1940s, owned by Mr Errol Flynn, the famous American actor, whose swashbuckling demeanour made it into a playground for the world's rich and famous.

Up to the late-1980s, Navy Island still boasted Flynn memorabilia and was among the attractions most sought-after by visitors to Jamaica.

In 2002 when the Port Authority of Jamaica bought the property and announced its intention to develop the attraction to include the construction of a five-star hotel and villas we, like most Jamaicans, were encouraged... hopeful even.

However, as it now stands, one of Jamaica's best attractions is decaying and, as such, is depriving the country, and the people of Portland in particular, of earning much needed foreign exchange.

According to Port Antonio Mayor Bennie White, the Portland Parish Council continues to receive requests from persons wanting to host events on the 64-acre property.

"This place is such a wonderful place, and we allow it to just to sit there," Mayor White is quoted by the Observer North East.

His lament could easily be directed at the birthplace of former premier and National Hero The Rt Excellent Norman Washington Manley in Roxborough, Manchester, as well as that of former Prime Minister Sir Donald Sangster in Mountainside, St Elizabeth, and that of former Prime Minister Hugh Shearer in Martha Brae, Trelawny.

In the case of Mr Shearer's birthplace, it was only earlier this month that the Observer West reported that although $3 million had been allocated for renovation there was no clear indication when that work will begin.

In July this year, we reported that the Jamaica National Heritage Trust was looking at establishing a mechanism that will not only declare places of historical importance as National Heritage Sites, but which will also provide for their "development and sustainable maintenance".

That, we maintain, makes a lot of sense and can't happen too soon.

However, as we have argued in this space repeatedly, we shouldn't have to wait for a historical site to be 'declared' before we take protective and rehabilitative action. And, we insist, it can't just be the Heritage Trust and the Government that should be held accountable.

In the case of Navy Island, we would have thought that the Port Authority would have seen and appreciated its economic and historic value. Maybe there were extenuating circumstances that influenced the Port Authority's inaction at the site. If that is so, it would be good for the authority to tell the country.





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