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Navy Island still in ruins

Port Antonio mayor calls on Port Authority to restore facilities

BY EVERARD OWEN Observer correspondent

Monday, October 15, 2012    

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Mayor of Port Antonio Benny White is calling on the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) to restore the historic Navy Island, which has been closed for more than a decade, in order to boost the tourism offerings in Portland.

This as the parish council continues to receive requests from persons wanting to host events on the 64-acre property just off the coast of Port Antonio.

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

Navy Island was first called Lynch's Island, named after the British Governor Lynch. It bore that name until 1728 when the British Navy took over the island, renaming it Navy Island.

Later, in the 1940s, the island was owned by renowned American move actor Errol Flynn, and for a time was a playground for the rich and famous.

In 2002, when the PAJ bought the property for some US$2.75 million, it revealed a slew of plans earmarked for its development, among them the construction of a five-star hotel and villas.

The sale of the property - which has changed several hands over the years - had generated much optimism in the town at the prospect that the island would finally be developed.

But last week, the mayor lamented the fact that the buildings on the island were allowed to fall into such a state of disrepair.

"I hope, very early, that somebody will take up the challenge and put back this place into real action, production. I will be the happiest person to see this main building fixed up and have some activities here," White said.

The mayor made the appeal following a recent visit to the island to tour the facilities. Mayor White was accompanied by health officials, the police, fire personnel and parish council staff who will assist in determining if approval can be granted for events to be held on the property.

"From time to time persons apply to the Portland Parish Council to have an event here and we have to make sure that all requirements are met before we can really say if approval can be granted," he said.

It would, however, appear that some persons are already using the facility to stage events without the permission of the council.

When the Jamaica Observer North East visited the island, a section of the property in front of the main building had been recently cleared and a price list, announcing the cost of various beverages, was posted to the wall. Other buildings on the island are also in a similar state of disrepair and several pools containing stagnant water are obvious breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

White, however, pointed to repairs which will have to be made to the infrastructure on the island before it will become safe for use.

Among the concerns raised was the loose rafters said to be hanging from the roof of the main building and the breeding sites for the mosquitoes.

"After the health persons do their sample on the mosquitoes we will get a report, and we will decide if we can give permission to put on this event" White said.

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