HOLLAND BAMBOO, St Elizabeth — The tourism and agriculture ministries, as well as other stakeholders are to develop a programme to protect the world-famous Holland Bamboo attraction from fire.
The announcement came during a recent tour of the two-mile-long bamboo archway by a number of central and local government officials including Tourism Minister Wykeham McNeill, Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke and Mayor of Black River Everton Fisher.
The visit followed two major fires in recent weeks which did significant damage to sections of the historic grove. Located just west of Lacovia, the bamboo grove is said to have been planted by owners of the Holland Sugar Estate in the mid-1700s.
"We are going to have to see how (best) to protect the bamboo, and working with the Ministry of Agriculture, the parish council and TPDCo (Tourism Product Development Company), we will see how we can do some sensitisation programmes (for the public) in order to protect the bamboo," McNeill told Jamaica Observer Central following the tour.
In addition to that, the Jamaica Information Service reported McNeill as saying that as an immediate measure, a community organisation once dedicated to streamlining activities around the attraction will be revitalised. The group will operate in association with the South Coast Resort Board, the St Elizabeth Parish Council and TPDCo.
"We have to put back in place an organisation that was here previously, and have discussions with them on how we are going to go forward. We want to ensure that in future planning... there has to be a regularising of how we operate here," he said.
NcNeill argued that the community itself must play a pivotal role in the longevity of the attraction, which is why the group will be tasked with ensuring "that we don't have recurrence" of fires at the site.
The tourism minister contended that "if everybody comes together, we will have a better chance of protecting" what he described as a "very valuable treasure".
Clarke, meanwhile, expressed relief that the damage was "not too, too bad" and that the "trees will come back".
Noting that "the bamboo comes under the Ministry of Agriculture," he said replanting and resuscitation would soon be undertaken.
Referring to reports that one recent blaze was accidentally ignited by farmers while the other was deliberately set, Clarke emphasised that the community would have to be involved in any project to protect the bamboo grove.
"This Holland Bamboo is very, very important as far as our tourism product is concerned and they (locals) benefit when tourists stop here. If we destroy this, we destroy our own economic lives," he argued.
Mayor Fisher said the St Elizabeth Parish Council had already started engaging locals on the dangers fires pose to the grove.
He noted that Holland Bamboo is a main attraction in St Elizabeth and the local authority will make every effort to protect it.