Tue | Apr 7, 2020

World class Fort Clarence Beach Park set for full opening this summer

Published:Wednesday | February 5, 2020 | 12:15 AM
A mobile concessionaire, Sharkie’s, parked at the Fort Clarence Beach Park.
A mobile concessionaire, Sharkie’s, parked at the Fort Clarence Beach Park.

The Fort Clarence Beach Park in Hellshire, St Catherine, is expected to become fully operational by June 2020, following major aesthetic upgrading, the establishment of a slew of amenities, and a significant increase in the number of employees.

General manager at the 50-acre property, Granville Morgan, told Hospitality Jamaica that one of the most significant features at the facility will be a pirate-themed water park. However, in order to make entry affordable and accessible, the water park will operate independently and will not be factored in the general entry fee to the property.

“The water park is going to add value to the product, and persons who wish to experience it would be required to pay an additional fee. As it is right now, we are trying our very best to keep the entry for persons affordable, that is why we want to keep the water park independent. We didn’t want to do just a one fee for everything because if you do that, the cost could be very ­prohibitive,” Morgan explained.

The revival of nightlife at Fort Clarence is also huge on operator Guardsman Hospitality’s agenda in its bid to create a space for family entertainment, and, ­according to Morgan, a place for “young people to come and enjoy”.

He speaks of reggae parties on the beach, monthly reggae events, and a lot of live events.

“We want to create a space for young people so that they can come and enjoy themselves in a safe, clean environment that will facilitate the reculturing. Our chairman is very passionate about that,” Morgan said.

Already, he is in talks with a company that will be doing a skating rink. In addition, the beach park will have five to six restaurants, of which one will offer fine dining, Morgan revealed.

The area’s fragile ecosystem has also been taken into consideration and, ­currently, a reed bed (natural ­habitats found in ­floodplains, waterlogged ­depressions, and estuaries) sewage ­system is being designed for the property. Cooking via wood fire is prohibited as a deforestation-prevention measure, and a turtle-release plan is in place due to the beach being a nesting site for them.

Morgan said the entity is focused on immersing itself in the community and has already forged an alliance with the Hellshire Community Council, and will be having regular monthly meetings with them at the park.

In terms of employment, he said the company not only retained the previous staff members they inherited from the Urban Development Corporation (UDC), but was scouting for talent, including beach attendants, bartenders and other culinary staff, from within Hellshire and Portmore.

“We are not looking anywhere else for people for employment. We recognise that we have talented, qualified people in the area. Everybody that you see here working is from the community. That is what we will continue to do,” he said.

“UDC would have done some amount of training already with them (staff), so when we inherited them it was like hitting the ground running; so we didn’t have to do much training. What we are focusing on now is the company culture,” Morgan added.

He said Guardsman Hospitality was very cognisant that community integration is integral to the success of any tourism entity, and so engaging of the residents was a no-brainer.

“You could spend millions talking about the beautiful beaches; you could spend millions talking about the food; but the people are what matters and we understand the importance of people, and so we are not only providing employment, but we are providing a holistic approach,” he explained.

“We are having talks with the community, too, to help them with their business ideas. There are persons in the area who are craft vendors and persons who do massage, who I understand are certified; we will provide a platform for them to make a living.”

In terms of sports tourism, Morgan said there are plans afoot to bring the Guardsman Games to the community, and discussions are also under way to take the international footsal competition to Fort Clarence.

“Footsal is a big event right across the world. We want to host international beach football ­because Jamaica is doing well. We want to be the host for the next footsal world cup. The beach is ready. We just need to get the other facilities, the stands, in place,” he said.