Climate change park coming to Portmore

BY KIMONE THOMPSON Associate editor - Features

Sunday, May 25, 2014

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AT one time it was to be the site of the Jamaica Football Federation's training centre. Then there was talk that it was to be the home of the municipal offices. But last Friday, 15 acres of open lot across from the Portmore Mall was unveiled as the site for a climate change park.

It is a joint venture between the city of Hagen in Germany and the municipality of Portmore in St Catherine, and is one of several projects to be completed under the Municipal Climate Partnership Programme.

Hagen and Portmore were twinned in 2012 during the second term of Mayor George Lee, who died last year while in office.

No date has yet been set for the completion of the facility, but on Friday, German ambassador Josef Beck, representatives from central and local government and an outpouring of Labour Day volunteers started the process by planting 100 Lignum Vitae, Blue Mahoe, Mahogany and Poui trees along the area's periphery.

As acting Portmore mayor Leon Thomas explained it, the park will be a virtual poster child in the fight against climate change as it will feature rainwater harvesting, solar and wind power, and an underground wastewater treatment plant which will be used for irrigation.

It will also feature a jogging trail, a water fountain, and park benches.

"We know when you plant trees they trap greenhouse gases and that's what we want to do because in Portmore we don't have enough trees, so we want to begin here," Thomas told the Jamaica Observer.

Thomas said he and a team will be journeying to Hagen in July to iron out the details of the agreement as, at the moment, only a
"concept" exists.

"The Germans were here in March and they planted a few trees so this is our way of saying to the Germans: 'We're ready and we are serious on our side'," the acting mayor said, adding that an announcement regarding the details will be made by year-end or next January.

Environment and climate change minister Robert Pickersgill told the Observer that the park will address both the mitigation and adaptation aspects of climate change.

"From the adaptation standpoint, the park will be a major green area in the municipality in which the citizens within and beyond the community will be able to go and relax while engaging in recreational and educational activities. There will be roof gardens on the buildings.

"There is an amphitheatre in which there will be performances. In fact, the site has been identified as the venue for an international reggae climate change festival which is a public education and awareness tool for climate change that will showcase national and international artistes over a two-day period," Pickersgill said.

In addition, he said the entrance to the park will house a museum which will reflect the history and culture of Portmore and Hagen, as well as a climate change exhibition on mitigation and adaptation projects in both cities.

Germany is one of the largest players in the renewable energy sector, and has entire cities being run solely on solar energy, for example.

In March this year, when a solar energy project was launched at the HEART College of Construction Services in Portmore, deputy mayor of the city of Hagen Dr Christian Schmidt said there are days when all the energy needed by the country is produced by renewables.

"And we have a lot less sun than you; so see what your chances are," he told the audience then.

Like the climate change park, the solar project at HEART and accompanying training courses in renewable energy are components of the climate partnership. It also includes a climate awareness campaign and an exchange of experts and students.

The plan for the lands adjoining the park, according to Thomas, is to set up a transport centre where all Jamaica Urban Transit Company buses from Kingston and Half-Way-Tree will terminate. Shuttle buses will go between the centre and the various communities.

Also on Friday, the Portmore Municipal Council partnered with the Transport Authority to give the Naggo Head transport centre a facelift to include painting of shops, kerb walls and parking lanes.




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