Mon | Jul 15, 2019

Earth Today | JCDT kicks off 25th anniversary celebrations this Christmas

Published:Thursday | December 14, 2017 | 12:00 AMPetre Williams-Raynor
A cloud forest view from Shelter Trail in Holywell.
Scouts camp at Holywell in 2015.

WITH FUN, food, and yes, education; that's how the Jamaica Conservation and Development Trust (JCDT), managers of the island's Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park, will kick off its 25th anniversary celebrations.

They're doing so with a December 17 event called 'Christmas Breeze', one hosted at Holywell and designed to delight young and old patrons alike, even as the effort is made to inspire love and promote interest in the continued conservation of the park.

"It is that time of year again and people are looking for fun things for children to do. This is it," said Dr Susan Otuokon, head of the JCDT. "And this is not only going to be only fun, but educational and environmentally friendly as well."

For $1,000 per adult and $500 per children, patrons will get to enjoy everything on offer except the food.

"We have someone who is going to be making Christmas decorations with the children. They will be decorations from recyclables, mostly pet bottles, which we have already collected and have been preparing, (as well as from) natural found items. They will be able to leave with something they have made but we are also asking them to put something on the actual Christmas tree on the site," Otuokon explained.

"There is also face-painting (with the focus on) some of the animals from the national park like the Giant Swallowtail butterfly and the Jamaican yellow snake. (There will also be) guided trail tours so you can get a tour of the visitors' centre, which is the educational part. There will also be ring games and other old-time games that you don't see children playing anymore," she added.




The event will mark the beginning of what is likely to be a yearlong celebration of the JCDT's 25th anniversary on February 26, 2018.

Those activities will include the launch of their Junior Rangers Club and the opening of new facilities, including a new Visitors' Centre and Cafe, and a new peak shelter.

There is, too, to be a strong push to have Jamaicans hike to the peak of the Blue Mountain.

"Every Jamaican should hike it at least once in their lifetime. We realise a lot of people have not. We know also that some people don't know where to go to have that organised. So we are going to be encouraging companies to organise that as part of their staff welfare," said Otuokon.

To mark the actual day of the anniversary, the JCDT will in February host 'Symphony in the Mountains', featuring performances from the Immaculate Conception High School symphony orchestra along with the Immaculate Conception High School's Glee Club, the KC Chapel Choir, and members of the Jamaica Defence Force Band and drummers from the Charles Town Maroons.

For Otuokon, the celebrations are invaluable, certainly given the work of the entity over the years.

"I think it is significant because we only have one national park and in terms of the way the site is managed, we have a lot to share," she said.

The JCDT does its management of the park not only through natural heritage conservation, but also through cultural heritage conservation, working with the Jamaica National Heritage Trust and the Windward Maroons; enforcement as manifested through patrons and the marking of boundaries; recreation and tourism with the development and operation of ecotourism attractions, such as at Holywell; as well as through monitoring and evaluation, done with, for example, GIS and photography.

Public education is also integral to what they done, as evidenced by the upcoming event.

"When our rangers pass through the area, they stop in the communities, inform them about the park and about general environmental legislation and keeping their communities clean. We also do school visits," noted Otuokon.