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Collaboration between several key government agencies is helping the parish of Portland to regain pride of place as a sought-after tourist resort area.
With $48.5 million allocated by the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), in keeping with a promise made in 2012 to improve tourism assets in Portland, the parish capital, Port Antonio, now has a rehabilitated park, while craft traders have a craft village by the seashore. Rafters can now embark safely and the drive into the Rio Grande Valley via Berrydale Road is much more comfortable due to improvements under the joint initiative.
Spearheaded by the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo), the projects were implemented through a partnership with the TEF, the Portland Parish Council and the National Works Agency, with support from the Parish Development Committee and the Portland Chamber of Commerce. All four completed projects were formally handed over to their respective agencies yesterday, April 2, 2014, by Minister of Tourism and Entertainment, the Hon. Dr. Wykeham McNeill, with ribbon cutting ceremonies conducted during a tour.
The Berrydale Road, which bypasses the loading bay for patrons interested in rafting on the Rio Grande, has been rehabilitated at a cost of $20 million. The project involved resurfacing sections of the road from Fellowship to Berrydale, installing curb walls and the construction of drains and retaining walls.
Concurrently, loading passengers onto rafts has been made easier and safer with the installation of an embarkation platform, replacement of damaged gabion baskets, construction of concrete steps and the installation of protective boulders, at a cost of over $2.8 million.
In the heart of the town, the residents can now stage a range of outdoor community activities at the Neville Antonio Park which had been in a state of disrepair. With an expenditure of over $13 million, it now has a rehabilitated stage and amphitheater, bathrooms, gazeboes, perimeter fencing and a repaired walkway. Additionally, there was construction of a sewage system, minor landscaping and restoration of electrical lighting to the park.
At the handing over ceremony, Minister McNeill said, “we recognize that this park is a vital recreational facility for the community and a decision was taken to upgrade it.” He said this was done in the context of a determination that, “the mandate of this government is to encourage development that will improve the quality of life of the people.”
The TEF has been enabling fulfillment of this mission and Minister McNeill said, “we fully appreciate that we cannot grow the tourism industry unless the Jamaican people are feeling its impact and that is why we are committed to ensuring that when we ask the TEF to spend money on a project, the Jamaican people, and in particular the community in which a project is carried out, are primary beneficiaries.”
He was particularly pleased with the Portland Craft Village, which had languished for some ten years because it was incomplete and vendors were unhappy with its original state. The work done on it has also been welcomed by Mayor of Portland, His Worship Councillor Benny White, and President of the Portland Craft Traders Association, Joan Shaw.
Renovation of the craft village was at a cost of $12.5 million, and included; installation of partitions and doors, improved flooring, bathrooms, kitchen areas, upgrading electrical and sewage systems, construction of a bar, as well as the installation of wheel-chair access and a roof over the amphitheatre.
Minister McNeill said the projects had been undertaken, “in a concerted effort to reawaken the once vibrant township of Port Antonio and renew its place as an enchanting resort town.”
For his part, Executive Director of the TEF, Mr. Clyde Harrison, said “I am pleased that the TEF was able to assist in making good on a promise to assist in the renovation of these key tourism facilities, which will enhance the tourism product of Portland and Jamaica overall.”
Executive Director of TPDCo, Mr. Dennis Hickey underscored that “the mission of TPDCo is to enhance and diversify our tourism product and the handing over of these four projects will definitely contribute to that end.”