'Everything falling apart'

Wykeham McNeill calls for resumption of work on multimillion-dollar Norman Manley Beach Park upgrade project

Observer West writer

Thursday, September 13, 2018

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NEGRIL, Westmoreland - Opposition spokesperson on tourism, and Member of Parliament for Westmoreland Western, Dr Wykeham McNeil, is calling for the resumption of work on the stalled multi-million-dollar, Norman Manley Beach Park project in the resort town of Negril.

“I am calling on the minister of tourism to pay some immediate attention to this project, so that the people can have the use of that facility,” said McNeill, adding that the park has been closed since 2014.

“The Norman Manley Beach Park is the primary public beach in Negril. This is where everyone comes, the family, everyone. In 2014, the park was closed down and was handed over to the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCO) for upgrading.”

According to McNeill, who himself is a former tourism minister, some $150 million was earmarked for the upgrade of the park under the last People's National Party's administration. He added that work had started on the project in 2015.

He noted that the project is aimed at providing free access to the family-friendly public facility, which he said, would be “a centrepiece” in the town of Negril.

“It is in the centre of the town. We wanted it to have a play area for children. It would have entertainment areas, concessions, proper bathrooms, change rooms, lockers, a proper public beach, and kept in perpetuity for the people of Jamaica and the people of Negril free of charge. Everything was done, funds put in place and designs,” McNeill charged.

He argued that, months after work on the project started, it was turned over to the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo), and later sent out to tender.

“There was a flaw in the tender and they brought it back to re-tender. Nothing has happened subsequently. Even the wall that was built to start the project is in disrepair. Everything is falling apart and for the past four years the beach park has remained closed,” McNeill stressed.

“I have been in touch with all the parties. There is some confusion between TPDCo and the planning authority (Negril/Green Island Area Local Planning Authority) over who is now in charge and despite repeated requests, the park has not been opened for the people of Negril.”

Just over two years ago, former chairman of the then Negril Resort Board, Cliff Reynolds, called on tourism minister Edmund Bartlett, for the resumption of work on the stalled project, which is funded by the Tourism Enhancement Fund.

Reynolds noted that apart from the erection of a security post and a perimeter fence, nothing else had been done to improve the property.

At that time, the then TEF executive director, Dennis Hickey, told the Jamaica Observer West that work should resume on the project in the latter part of 2016, following a tender process.

“A phase-two tender process is currently in progress and we strongly believe that the beach park is going to be started, starting early this year (2016) when the tender process is completed. We have a few stages of the process left, and at some point the minister should be taking it to Cabinet,” Hickey then explained.

On Tuesday, TEF executive director, Dr Carey Wallace said that stakeholders in Negril are unhappy with the designs of the project that were left by the previous administration.

“It is a case where the designs that were there …when we reviewed them, stakeholders in the area were unhappy, and so what we had to do since that time is to go back to the drawing board, hence the delay with the project,” Dr Wallace disclosed.

He, however, did not give a time table for resumption.

But, he noted that while the Norman Manley Beach Park project has been held up, progress has been made on other TEF- funded projects in other resort towns, including Negril, where the Negril mini-stadium project in on track.

“We are doing multiple projects across Jamaica and in the resort towns to include Negril. But that one, in particular (Norman Manley Beach Park), is a case of designing something that is better and more sustainable and would make all our stakeholders in Negril and Jamaica happier,” he argued.

Meanwhile, several members of the Negril community are anxiously awaiting the resumption of work at the once popular beach park.

“The park is now in bush and we need the use of it, so I am urging the Government to sort out the issues and get the project going because plenty people need to use the facility,” said a Negril resident, who did not want to be named.

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