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SAVANNA-LA-MAR, Westmoreland, Jamaica, August 7, 2015: Already boasting the internationally acclaimed Negril resort town, the parish of Westmoreland is set to expand its tourist attractions with the development of a number of heritage sites.
The plan which is under discussion by several stakeholder agencies, including the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) and the Sugar Company of Jamaica Holdings (SCJH), was outlined by Minister of Tourism and Entertainment, Hon. Dr. Wykeham McNeill, Wednesday (August 5) on a tour of some of the historical sites.
“We recognize the importance of using tourism as a tool to generate employment, to develop heritage and community tourism so that people can get more involved,” Dr. McNeill said at an end-of tour news brief at the ruins of the old fort at the bottom of Great Georges Street.
Minister McNeill said the tour was a follow-up to a series of meetings, noting, “We are working together and are making our plans and determining what we want done; we’re going to push together to get it done. You can’t stay on the sidelines and bemoan what is not done, you have to be a part of the process to make it happen and we’re all now working together to get things done correctly.”
A central component of the plan is the Fontabelle Great House at Frome. It is proposed to refurbish the house and open it as an attraction complemented by a number of historical points on the vast sugar plantation, including Workers Park, the site on which the 1938 Frome Estate workers rebellion played out.
The party also inspected the first bank vault which was installed by Barclays Bank DCO on the site where it had established its first bank on the island; an ancient water wheel integral to the grinding of sugarcane in years gone by, and other historical structures on the plantation.
A technical team from the TPDCo has already done an analysis of the great house, surrounding buildings and artifacts to determine how they could come together as a heritage tourism trail.
The Fontabelle landmarks are owned by the SCJH and Chairman, Donna Scott-Motley, has endorsed the proposals. Also backing the plan are the Tourism Product Development Company, the Westmoreland Parish Council, the local Parish Development Committee, the Custos and Members of Parliament.
The view was also expressed that other agencies, including the TEF, Jamaica Social Investment Fund, CHASE Fund and other social agencies could be integral to the proposed parish project.
SCJH Chairman Donna Scott Motley envisioned the proposed development of the old fort and other landmarks as, “Phoenix rising from the ashes”, adding, “and it reminds us that the potential that exists in Westmoreland for heritage tourism is so significant that with all of us holding hands and coming together in a very short time you are going to see the wealth which we are going to create in this community.”
Asserting that “I know it can happen,” Mrs. Motley promised that “It will happen.”
Mayor of Savanna-la-Mar and Chairman of the Westmoreland Parish Council Bertel Moore expressed hope that the tour “will bear fruit in the near future.”
Member of Parliament for Central Westmoreland, Dwayne Vaz, underscored “the potential all the sites visited have,” and Custos of Westmoreland, the Rev. Canon Hartley Perrin, said the people were looking “with great anticipation for the day when the promises become fulfilled.”