Falmouth frets as cruise ships dream is realised
Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer
The town of Falmouth is not ready for the first two ships that are set to dock there in November, as work has not started on refurbishing the 18th-century commercial capital.
In addition to the two small ships that will dock there in November, the world's largest liner, Oasis of the Sea, makes its call in March 2011.
The Urban Development Cor-poration (UDC) is the implementation agency, however, the company is only just now completing consultations with the various stakeholders on the proposed plan to begin work, says president of the Trelawny Chamber of Commerce, Richard Bourke.
Bourke said the UDC has a budget of J$260 million, which is to be used in traffic control, construction of a new transport centre, pedestrianisation of Water Square, repairs to sidewalks, widening of some roads, drainage, and improvement of building façades.
The town is in a deplorable condition, the streets are dirty, the courthouse that will greet cruise passengers on arrival is shabby and in need of an urgent facelift. However, the Tourism Product Development Company has plans to commence restoration in about two weeks.
A walking tour that is being touted by the community has reached nowhere. Outside of Outameni Experience and Martha Brae rafting, Falmouth has no real attraction that is ready for visitors to experience.
The police station, a historic building, which was abandoned years ago, now has trees growing in it, and the temporary facilities the police were relocated to remains in an untenable condition, says immediate past president of the Chamber, Dennis Seivwright.
He said a building located next door to the Falmouth Hospital, which was partially completed to accommodate the police for Cricket World Cup 2007, has been sitting unused for the last three years.
"It's not only a question of the cruise-ship passengers that are coming in, it's also critical for the protection of our residents. The police are currently operating in far from acceptable conditions and this makes their jobs harder, making them less effective," said Bourke.
Bourke is calling for Falmouth to be given resort status, "as this will give the security forces the necessary legislative framework to deal with harassment, and issues of that nature", said Bourke.
At the same time, Dr James Parrent head of another group - Falmouth Heritage Renewal - has expressed concern about the obvious difficulties the port development could present for the preservation of the historic structures within the town.
The Anglican Church, one of the oldest in the country, built in 1795, needs considerable façade work, the graves need to be restored, the Jewish cemetery is in a deplorable state. "I believe that a lot of the people coming on the ship will have Jewish ancestors and will want to visit the cemetery, which is the resting place of some of the founding fathers of Trelawny," said Parrent.
Parrent, in an interview with The Sunday Gleaner yesterday, said, "Restoration of the historic fabric of the town will make it more appealing to the estimated 500,000 cruise-ship passengers to dock there annually."
In a letter to Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett, he recommended that the head tax collected from the cruise-ship passengers who arrive in Falmouth be used to fund the restoration of streetscapes and historic structures in the town for at least a five-year period.
"Such an arrangement would allow the support of sustainable efforts to preserve Falmouth's unique character and immensely improve and protect this valuable tourism asset," he said.