Where do the children play? - Hellshire residents livid over absence of promised green space
The lack of green space in several communities in Hellshire, St Catherine, is one of the many sore points for residents who shelled out millions to purchase their dream homes but are now disappointed with what they have.
The residents are also upset over the lack of public transportation to several communities, particularly the recently opened Sands Hill Vista, located highest in the Hellshire Hills.
Then there is an absence of street lights on several roads, including the Sands Hill main road, which has angered the residents.
"Based on what they (the developers) promised, I was expecting something more," moaned Fara Erskine-White, owner of a two-bedroom house in Sands Hill Vista.
Erskine-White, who moved into the community months ago, said she paid some $12 million for the property in which she had planned to raise a family. But the long-term plans are being reconsidered, she admitted.
"Hellshire itself is not bad, but there is no public transportation that comes here," she said, noting that the few residents who have already moved into Sands Hill Vista, and who do not own motor vehicles, have to pay upwards of $500 in transportation costs to the area.
"My biggest concerns are light and accessibility to this place. It is almost as if there is no entrance to the community based on how far the gate is, and I don't know what kind of street lights these are," offered Erskine-White's neighbour, who also moved into the community earlier this year.
STILL IN THE DARK
The neighbour, who asked not to be named, charged that even in areas where street lights are present, persons are still in the dark.
"I call them romantic candles, because is only candle alone low so when you want to get romantic. You definitely have to go under it to get any use out of them. I think they could do much better for us up here."
The complaints of the persons who recently moved into the Hellshire area echo those of persons who have lived there for years, and president of the All Hellshire Leadership Council, David Barnett, is welcoming the new voices.
"The reality is that when you spend upwards of seven, eight, 15 million to get what you want (even) if it is not perfect, but at least give the residents something to work with, and persons have been very disappointed," Barnett told The Sunday Gleaner.
"We have never had street lights on that (Sands Hill) main road, and everybody use that road. You have people work at the houses and after work they have to walk all the way down the hill in the darkness trying to find something to go home. That leaves everybody vulnerable," said Barnett.
He charged that the undeveloped areas, which were designated for green spaces in the community, have been a bone of contention for residents for years.
"Since persons have been residing in Hellshire, we have been pointed to spaces called green spaces; however, none of these have been developed. When you look at them is pure rock stones and some of them are even down in gullies," said Barnett, listing Hellshire Glades, Hellshire Park, and Sands Hills Bay among the affected communities.
"We have no space for children to play. There is no space to have a social event. These areas have only grown into a nuisance for residents with overgrown shrubs, which also poses security risks to persons who have to walk by or persons who live close to these areas," lamented Barnett.
"I have known of persons who have sold their houses and have moved to other communities because Hellshire is lacking the facilities and the amenities to encourage people to stay. If you want to take a walk in the Sunday evening and sit down with your children and watch them play, there is no place for that in Hellshire," he said.
Leonard Cowan, president of the Hellshire Park (Phase two) Citizens' Association, charged that the bushy recreational spaces are now hangouts for criminals. He noted that there have been reports of men using the space in Hellshire Park, which also contains one of Hellshire's many caves, to hide illegal guns before it was fenced by the Urban Development Corporation (UDC).
"Before, everybody used to come down here come smoke dem weed and do all kinds of foolishness. This area can serve as a tourist attraction. We just have to take care of it," he said.
When contacted, UDC General Manager Desmond Malcolm said he could not comment on the issue of the undeveloped green spaces in Hellshire at this time. However, Malcolm hinted that the green spaces could be a fallout from the slow turnover of lands between the UDC and the Portmore Municipal Council.
In the meantime, Leon Thomas, councillor for the Hellshire division and acting mayor of Portmore, argued that the recreational spaces were handed over to the communities by the UDC, and that it was the residents who were expected to develop these areas.
"But that is a little unfair, and I have to side with the residents on that," said Thomas.
"The challenge that the residents have is that they don't have the resources to develop these spaces that are given to them. If you look at them, there are a lot of boulders and rocks and so on, and it is not easy for you to ask the communities to do that because it is going to cost a lot of money," added Thomas.
He told our news team that he will ask the UDC to look into the green space issue as part of its ongoing process of turning over land it currently owns in Hellshire to the Portmore Municipal Council.
The Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) has urged residents of Hellshire, St Catherine, to recommend areas where street lights should be placed.
According to Winsome Callum, director of corporate communications at the JPS, the onus is on Hellshire residents to make recommendations to their parish council to have street lights erected in areas where none was ever installed.
"Where there are defective street lights, those must be reported to JPS and we will send a team out there immediately," said Callum.
For its part, the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) has indicated that it is willing to examine the issue of its buses serving other sections of Hellshire.
Clinton Clarke, marketing and communications manager at the JUTC, told our news team that he will discuss the matter with the company's department responsible for the planning of routes.
The JUTC on its website lists 10 trips daily on the Hellshire to Half-Way Tree route, the first being at 5:40 a.m., and the last at 8:00 p.m. But that route culminates at Hellshire Park, leaving several residents well short of their final destination.