Peace Garden adds 'Hope' - Operators looking to increase visitors to iconic oasis
The Hope Botanical Gardens in St Andrew now welcomes 1.5 million visitors annually, but that is not enough to satisfy the operators, who are pushing to increase the numbers going into next year.
The operators are expecting that the construction of a new entrance and a host of other projects now in the pipeline will drive more persons to the iconic venue where many childhood memories were made.
Alfred Thomas, chairman of the Nature Preservation Foundation, which manages the gardens, believes the initiatives being planned will assist in maintaining healthy families.
"We feel that this place is for families, husbands and wives and children to come and put their blankets out," Thomas told The Sunday Gleaner, as he noted that the Rotary Club of St Andrew and the CHASE Fund have established a 'Peace Garden', which will be open to the public in January.
"They are allowing families and couples and singles and friends to come and sit down, and if there are disputes within the family, or members of the family and friends, they can sit down and there are lovely flowers around, so maybe they can come and talk it out, maybe with their pastor or with their counsellor," added Thomas.
Chairperson for physical development and infrastructure at the gardens, Dr Carol Archer, noted that one of the major plans is to redesign the eastern entrance as the current one poses several challenges.
The project is being spearheaded by businessman Ian Levy and architectural design and surveying services have been donated by other individuals.
According to Archer, there is also a plan to reconstruct the maze, which was once flocked by visitors.
"Because it has such strong sentiment in our society, we have been again supported by Ian Levy to reconstruct the maze, and we have been using indigenous plants and the staff at Hope Gardens. They have been on board in a very spirited way," said Archer.
"We want to ensure that as you walk the gardens, you will get a feel that this is one of the iconic features of Jamaica," added Archer.
She said while the aim is to provide a space where the next generation of Jamaicans can create memories, the operators of the gardens face funding challenges.
While several corporate companies and individuals have been giving back to ensure the continued sustenance of the facility, there is a dire need for more help.
Thomas said partnerships with other entities would have to lead to enhancing Hope Botanical Gardens for the benefit of all.
"There are many people who have shown interest in wanting to do things here, and as the board, we have been trying to kind of hold back to say this space has to be preserved for the Jamaican people, and hence we cannot clutter it with too many things," said Thomas.
One of the projects he is looking forward to is the transformation of a former slave hospital on the property into a chapel where persons can host weddings.
He said the operators are speaking with potential donors to see how this project can be facilitated.
The operators will also be introducing free Wi-Fi service next year.
General manager for the gardens, Hugh Anthony Porter, said they have already identified a provider for this service and discussions are under way to see how best to implement this.
"Because Mona is a built-up area, they don't want to unleash Wi-Fi to here, and then everybody knows that and then their revenue tank in this area," said Porter.
But even as they seek to attract sponsorships to help fund some of the proposed projects, the operators of the gardens have been introducing initiatives to raise money.
One initiative is the sale of a wide variety of plants, including beautiful poinsettias which are stored at the nursery in the gardens.