Sat | Jan 19, 2019

Falmouth heritage at risk

Published:Friday | January 30, 2015 | 12:00 AMDaraine Luton
Dalrymple Philibert

THE RESORT town of Falmouth is said to be at risk of losing its identity as a heritage destination, even as three-quarter billion dollars is being pumped into making the town a worthwhile attraction for tourists while at the same time providing economic opportunities for locals.

Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert, who on Wednesday acted as committee chair of the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) at Gordon House, said Falmouth's identity is fast disappearing.

She said despite Falmouth's major pull being its heritage sites, antique buildings are being torn down and are being replaced with concrete structures. She expressed fear that the billions of dollars being pumped into the development of the resort area could be wasted if Falmouth loses its appeal as a heritage tourism destination.

Clyde Harrison, executive director of the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) and Jennifer Hibbert, the permanent secretary in the tourism ministry, were in agreement.

"I share your concern," Hibbert said at a meeting of the PAAC at Gordon House.

She suggested that agencies tasked with the responsibility to preserve the state of the town may be dropping the ball.

"We have a problem of enforcement in Jamaica. You have specific entities with responsibilities. As tourism, we serve more as a catalyst for change for development to happen," Hibbert said.

At the meeting, Dalrymple-Philibert said, "If you get a chance and you go into Falmouth now, there will soon be nothing of heritage tourism left in Falmouth because many of our buildings that speak to the history of Falmouth are not just disappearing, but doing so very quickly."

"A lot of the buildings that tell the story - that are attractive for Falmouth are disappearing at an amazing rate," she added.

The MP, who represents South Trelawny, said that the TEF should seek to direct its resources in such a way to encourage people in the resort town to understand and buy into the concept of heritage tourism. She said, too, that the people who own many of the historic buildings in the town do not have the funds to restore and preserve the antique structures, and argued that it is counterproductive to develop the town as a resort area without seeking to provide assistance to persons to keep their buildings "the way they ought to be kept in its natural state".

"There is a lot of money down there and it is sitting on the pier. And if the people of Falmouth don't get any help to keep their buildings in the way it is, then there will be nothing at all for the tourists to come off the pier and see in the town," Dalrymple-Philibert said.

Falmouth is a historic port town, located between Ocho Rios and Montego Bay on Jamaica's north coast, and is perfectly laid out to be explored by pedestrians. Founded in 1769, this architectural gem boasts the finest collection of Georgian architecture in the Caribbean, and has been listed as one of the world's 100 most endangered monuments four times in the last decade.

Development works valued at $750 million are to be undertaken in Falmouth, Trelawny this year, as the Government continues to transform the resort town. The work involves the development of the Hampden Wharf and the Falmouth Streetscape Improvement Project.

Harrison said $279 million is being spent to enhance buildings in the town and to fix up the streets.

"We are familiar with what is happening. The National Heritage Trust appointed a heritage officer, through Falmouth Heritage Renewal, to protect those buildings, to go out and make sure that the buildings are not knocked down, sold or destroyed," the TEF head said.