…. Of Falmouth glory days and untapped potential
While Falmouth is no longer the major economic centre it was back when sugar was king, many believe that with its rich history and grand Georgian architecture, the town has vast untapped potential for tourism.
Over the years, it was generally felt that had Falmouth received strong support and investments in the 1960s and 1970s, the town would probably be just as alive and vibrant as Montego Bay and Ocho Rios.
Since the new Falmouth cruise ship pier was commissioned into service in 2010, each year, the town has emerged as the Caribbean's premier cruise-shipping destination, churning out far more impressive arrival figures than Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, and Port Antonio - the seasoned destinations.
However, with limited infrastructure and a general failure to develop its attractions and utilise its eye-catching Georgian charm, Falmouth has become a mere gateway for cruise passengers heading to signature attractions in St Ann and St James.
It is, therefore, quite understandable why Patrick Atkinson, the member of parliament for North Trelawny, is seemingly so impatient with the slow pace at which the planned development of the town is taking place, undermining its capacity to become investment-ready quickly.
"When the pier was built, the town was not prepared in terms of its aesthetics and attractions Ö . As a result, you had tour buses that come from St Ann to take tourists to Dunn's River, and from Montego Bay to take them to places in St James," said Atkinson.
With the protracted delay still holding back progress, Atkinson thinks good earning opportunities are being wasted while the town awaits significant development.
"If one million tourists come into Falmouth, you are talking about US$100 million that they may spend. ... Once the money is circulating in Falmouth, you will see the impact," Atkinson told The Gleaner recently.
While its attractions are not renowned, should the J$448 million investment whip Falmouth into a presentable state quickly, it has few noteworthy attractions that could lure visitors into the town.
The main attractions that Falmouth could offer to visitors at this time include the following:
n The Tharpe House - the former home of John Tharpe, who was the richest landowner in Jamaica in the 1700s.
n The Barrett House - the former home of Edward Barrett, who is credited with establishing the town of Falmouth.
n The Falmouth Town Hall and Courthouse, which still has a Georgian look, even though it was rebuilt in 1926 after the original structure was destroyed by fire.
n The Vermont House - an eye-catching Georgian-style building in the heart of the town.
n The William Knibb Baptist Church, which was founded by the abolitionist William Knibb.
n St Peter's Anglican Church - a model of rich Georgian architecture.
n The old Falmouth Wharf, with its rustic buildings where sugar was stored for shipping.
n The Martha Brae River, which is steeped in folk culture and is amazing for rafting.