'Ancestral Gardens' opens in Woodside, St Mary

'Ancestral Gardens' opens in Woodside, St Mary

Residents now looking to reignite tourism

Monday, March 02, 2020

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Woodside, St Mary marks August 1 each year with a gathering of residents and visitors who re-enact the Declaration of Emancipation.

This year's activities will be particularly special as they will also be celebrating the long-awaited establishment of the Woodside Ancestral Garden.

Meant to be a sacred space, the Ancestral Garden pays homage to the convergence of Taino, African and European presence in the area.

It is hoped that the garden will increase the number of visitors to the area, reignite community tourism, provide employment for residents in the capacities of bed and breakfast hosts and tour guides; reduce rural urban drift, and help young people to be more optimistic about the future of their village.

The community was able to bring to life the dream of the Ancestral Garden, conceptualised more 15 years ago, after emerging winner of the Caribbean Cement Company Limited's Build Your Community Competition last year and earning the prize of a community development project valued at $5 million.

Acting on the specifications of the community's proposal, contractors commissioned by Carib Cement transformed an area, which was mostly a roughly cleared space surrounded by bushes, and which was accessible only by gingerly moving down a slope.

The work crew, including tradesmen and labourers from the community, installed concrete benches, a symbolic replica of a Taino hut, railings, concrete steps, concrete pathways, protective barriers, signage and a wall of honour, on which names of enslaved persons who worked on the former coffee plantation in the area will be mounted.

Carib Cement also renovated rest rooms, provided a water tank, paved a section of the road entering the community and donated a string trimmer (weed-whacker) to help with the ongoing clearing of bush and brush.

This, and other improvements to the area, make the space easily accessible and welcoming for either hosting events, or for quiet individual reflection.

“Strong, cohesive communities help to build a greater Jamaica and one of the aims of the Carib Cement Build Your Community competition was to reward a community which is able to work together to win and thereafter, successfully maintain the infrastructure.

“Woodside is a model community and we are pleased to have played a role in its history and development by bringing to life the dream of the residents for an Ancestral Garden,” said Klao Bell-Lewis, manager communication and community outreach at Carib Cement.

Situated within the constituencies of St Mary Central and Western , Woodside is a farming community located close to Highgate and Guy's Hill.

Four sites in the area have been declared national heritage sites by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust. They are Dryland or “One/Long Bubby Susan”, a cave with a petroglyph; St Gabriel's Anglican Church; Taino Steps and “Daddy Rock”.

Dr Erna Brodber, renowned scholar, has been at the centre of the strong community bonds within Woodside.

“It is rare for companies to think in terms of communities of people, yet it is so important that they do so. The Caribbean Cement Company, in thinking in such terms, is putting its money where its thinking is, putting its support to Jamaica at the nation's heart.

“We are thankful for the support of our community, the Anglican church, the Jamaica National Heritage Trust and so many others who have made this possible,” said Brodber.

Participating in a handover ceremony held last Tuesday, at the Ancestral Gardens were: the Reverend Father Seymour Hutchinson, pastor of six churches within the parish, including St Gabriel's; Robert “Kalaan” Pairman, Kasike of the Jamaican Hummingbird Tribe, along with his wife, Ronalda “Kaikotekina” Pairman and their daughter Tanama-Areyto, among others.

The community is now looking for other partnerships to help with further development.

The residents have appealed to the mayor of Port Antonio, Richard Creary, to build on Carib Cement's contribution of pavement to the entrance of the community by completing the rest of the roadway, which is now difficult to traverse.

They are also hoping to receive support from the Jamaica Tourist Board and the Jamaica Tourism Development Company to build awareness of the Ancestral Garden.

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