PORT ANTONIO, Portland — Stakeholders in Portland have welcomed news that the popular Blue Lagoon attraction will be closed in a few weeks, refurbished and rebranded.
The Blue lagoon is a major tourist attraction and heritage site located at San San in eastern Portland.
Last Wednesday, chairman of the Jamaica Heritage Trust, Orville Hill told stakeholders that it would be closed to commercial activity as of August 29. The attraction will undergo a three-phase overhaul that will begin with the area being cleared, upgrading of the facilities, and then the resumption of activities in an organised manner.
Over the years there have been complaints about how decrepit the attraction has become, the lack of sanitary conveniences, and the general disorder among those who operate in the space.
General manager for the Alligator Head Foundation, Nicky Myers is among those who have embraced the plan.
"There have been a number of incidents and the conversations have been going on for years. [Last Wednesday] we had a multi-stakeholder meeting that was successful and can be a template for handling other things around the island. We had a lot of people from different agencies that have come together — private, public and non-profit, non-government that have come in — with the interest of building capacity within our community and preserving what is best for our country," she said.
"This is a space of amazing beauty, not just aesthetically but it is environmentally an outstanding space that we want to celebrate, preserve and honour. This is an opportunity to support the community members that are there that have been asking for help for years. We have been able to pull together the stakeholders to source the help that they need to get done what needs to be done. We hold everybody here accountable to get the three phases that have been identified done," she added.
According to Hill, the third phase of the project will see the resumption of activities in a controlled atmosphere. Factors considered will include the capacity of the area and how many people can comfortably operate in the space.
"The persons will be properly licensed, trained [regarding] not only how they operate in the water but with the visitors that come there. We have to make sure that the product that we put out complies with all the legal requirements," he cautioned.
He hinted that rafting may be among the activities curtailed once the attraction reopens for business.
"Rafting on sea water is really not permitted by Jamaican law; it is for river courses. That is an area of challenge as well," said Hill.
President of the 12-year-old Blue Lagoon Alliance, Colin Beckford was among those who welcomed the initiative, though it will create a temporary financial challenge for his members. He too believes it will address a number of issues that have plagued the attraction for years.
"The Blue Lagoon is overpopulated and overrun by persons outside that come into the space and operate business. I am very pleased with the meeting that took place. The Blue Lagoon Alliance was set up for development coming in the future. The main objective is to help with the development that is to come. We are pleased with the outcome from the meeting and [are] in total agreement with the decision," he said.
He hopes the work will be done quickly so that the negative financial impact will be brief.
"The closing will be a very big setback for us as it is coming on to back to school, so it will be very, very difficult economically for us during this time. We are looking forward to the speedy rebranding and opening," he said.
Among the planned upgrades being eagerly awaited is the installation of sanitary facilities.
According to Hill, there is currently a "health hazard" because there is "no structured form of bathroom facilities for persons who visit to use".
Leonard "Captain Fox" Grant, who operates a boat to San San, Monkey Island, and the Blue Lagoon, is among those eagerly awaiting that change.
"I have been here for nearly 40 years and no bathroom facility — that's bad. Some of the people them want to pee and… have to go to the bush and around there. Getting bathroom facility is good and I agree with the closure," he said.
— Everard Owen