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Fix Negril but keep its charm - lobbyists

Published:Tuesday | March 29, 2016 | 3:00 AMAdrian Frater
A beach in the resort town of Negril.
Nerris Hawthorne
Adrian Hamilton
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Western Bureau:

While accepting that there is a need for infrastructural improvements, stakeholders in Negril want to retain the resort town's trademark charm, which they say has been one of the primary features that have been attracting visitors, especially American tourists, over the years.

"We attract people of all ages in Negril - the teenager, the middle-aged and the retirees," said hotelier Sophie Grizzle Roumel, as she addressed a Gleaner forum on job creation, investment and growth.

"As I have grown over the years, more and more of our guests, who came young, are now wanting to retire in Negril, or they want to come and spend six months. These are the people who put money into the economy."

In addition to the need to preserve the town's exotic white, sand beaches and lush, green environment, Negril Resort Board member, the outspoken Nerris Hawthorne, also wants to see programmes developed to facilitate the training of residents, especially the young people.

"I would like to see a training centre, where people can learn languages of different countries, among other tourist-related skills," said Hawthorne.

"I would like for the place to be as green as possible, not a lot of concrete. I would like to see the beaches retained as a primary attraction."

SOCIAL ILLS

Foreign investor Christine Cohen, who has fallen head over heels in love with Negril since establishing her Spa Retreat Hotel in the resort town four years ago, is keen on seeing the town's infrastructural needs and social ills, especially poor parenting and the bad attitude towards work, addressed.

"I would really like to see the right infrastructure in place, from the building of our roads to our water systems," said Cohen. "I want to see opportunities being developed for our young people ... . We need to make fathers and mothers accountable for growing their children with hope ... growing children with an understanding that working for a living is OK."

For Lee Issa, the president of the Negril Chamber of Commerce, the correction of environmental ills, which he believes, if left unattended, will result in the destruction of Negril's economy over the next 30 to 40 years, is key.

"If we don't correct the environmental ills of the past, then we won't have an economy 40 years from now ... . We want economic development, but we want sustainable development, because that is what is going to sustain us for decades to come," said Issa.

"We have to relocate our sewage plant; it is a secondary treatment plant. As the population grows and these new hotel rooms come on board, that sewage plant is not sustainable. Both the Government and the Opposition agree that it has to be relocated. I would like to see that happen within the next 30-40 years."

With a spillover of crime and violence from other major townships such as Lucea in Hanover, Savanna-la-Mar in Westmoreland, and Montego Bay,

St James, impacting Negril's once pristine image, Deputy Superintendent of Police Adrian Hamilton, the head of the Negril police, is resolute that lawlessness will not prevail.

"From a law-enforcement perspective, we want to deliver quality service for the people within this district because we believe they deserve it, and we will continue to do so while enhancing public order and public safety," said Hamilton.

"So, over the next 30 to 40 years, I am seeing a Negril where public order and public safety, crime, and other social issues are under control, with the police working in partnership with residents to deliver quality service."

adrian.frater@gleanerjm.com