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VIDEO: 'We are suffering'

Fern Gully craft vendors say toll road continues to cripple business

BY SHANAE STEWART
Observer staff reporter
stewarts@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, July 22, 2019

Three years after the official opening of the Caymanas to Mammee Bay leg of the north-south stretch of Highway 2000, craft vendors in Fern Gully, St Ann are still reeling from its effects.

Vendors shared with the Jamaica Observer North & East that the toll road — which cuts motorists' travel time in half, causing them to bypass the winding Fern Gully — has robbed them of sales.

The vendors also said they have been prevented from selling by the pier in Ocho Rios, a move that has further crippled their business.

Adlyn Reynolds, one of the vendors who still sells in Fern Gully, said business has whittled to nothing.

“I've seen the worst. We are hardly getting any business. The tour [bus] drivers don't stop... some of them don't stop; we are suffering. Nothing is going on from they built the bypass (toll road). We use to get returning residents at this time of the year. Yesterday, I made US$5. I have to pay fare to go and come and buy lunch, so you know that can't do anything,” Reynolds explained.

She said before the construction of the highway, she used to make enough money to survive and take care of her needs.

“You used to be able to come to work and make about a US$50, US$100 [or] US$120 — it depends. We used to go on the shipping pier but now they take us off. We were told to do training and we did our training, [but] we can't get anywhere. We don't have anyone to talk for us. We are suffering and I'm hoping for it to get better, as this is my only source of income,” she said.

Steve Reid has been selling in Fern Gully for approximately 33 years. He echoed similar sentiments.

“This is the worst time in the business. We are not getting any support, not even from the cruise ships. We used to get support from passersby from Montego Bay, Kingston, all over, you name it. But since the highway, all of that gone from us. Sometimes we out here for weeks and we don't make any money. We might make a US$20 or a $2000. The good thing is that I live close by and can walk to and from. If I had to travel many times I wouldn't come here. When I first started it was good, tourists used to flock inside here so you could make something.

“You see how many hotels on the north coast? We would love for some of the hotel guests to come and shop with us instead of all the tourists staying inside the hotels to shop. We need some more business so we can survive. Business is here, because cruise ships come with the tourists, so if we get some of them we can be alright and send our kids to school and have a nice life,” said Reid.

He chided the Government, arguing that there is no policy to protect them as craft vendors.

“We nuh have no government, nobody fi back we — and that is our problem. If we had a government to set standards everything would be alright,” Reid lamented.

Kristoff Green, a young vendor who said he grew up in the area, agreed with what Reynolds and Reid said.

“From them build up di toll road and thing we hardly have a business; and we want to see more tours and get to go back on the pier and start hustle again. Dem did just take we off the pier fi a while and we supposed to go back but all now we cyah go back, on the pier — couple years now. So wi woulda like fi see that change,” he said.