Launtia Cuff, Gleaner Writer
BAMBOO AVENUE, St Elizabeth:ONCE A beautiful natural attraction - with lush bamboo trees forming arches across the road for two and a half miles - for those travelling along the south coast, Bamboo Avenue is now only a remnant of its former beauty.
Over the years, Bamboo Avenue has fallen victim to natural disasters and acts of human disregard, which have led to a significant depletion of bamboo trees.
As a result, the St Elizabeth Parish Council and the Tourism Product Development Company have partnered on a tree-planting and beautification project in an effort to restore the beauty of the once-thriving natural tourist attraction.
However, residents and motorists, who travel along the roadway on a regular basis, have bigger concerns about safety as they travel along the avenue. They are fearful that bamboo trees will fall on to the roadway, especially during the rainy season, as not only has there been the loss of a number of bamboo trees, but there has also been soil erosion and root weakening of the remaining ones.
There have been reports of near misses from motorists who have escaped these falling trees while driving along this stretch of road.
One resident who has lived in Holland Bamboo his entire life told Rural Xpress that whenever there are heavy rains, he has noticed this problem. He blames it on poor maintenance.
"The maintenance is poor. [If] you look out there right now, there is bamboo that is turning into the road. I see roots that have gotten weak, and these roots should be taken up and replaced. Bamboo [that] dries up should be cut out. Bamboo that hangs in the road is not removed by who is working here (the Bamboo Avenue maintenance workers).
"They rake it up sometimes, they brush it, and they keep it clean. If a bamboo drops in the road, they will move it. The ones that [are] hanging over in the road looking like they are going to drop over, they need to be removed, but they not removing them.
"One of the most dangerous parts of this bamboo is when it comes to night. If a dry one falls in the road, you won't see it. It's when you come down on it you'll be able to see it."
The resident said there were times when he witnessed bamboo trees falling as motorists drove along the roadway.
OLDER TREES SHOULD BE CLEARED
Councillor Daren Powell of the Malvern division shared similar concerns at a recent parish council meeting, where he, too, told the tale of a near miss while travelling along the same stretch of roadway. He, too, was of the belief that the older trees should be cleared before they became the cause of a serious accident.
However, the maintenance of the bamboo trees does not fall under the responsibility of the parish council, but is that of the Parks and Gardens Department of the Ministry of Agriculture.
As a National Heritage Site, no one is allowed to remove bamboo trees unless they are posing an immediate danger to motorists.
Those who ply the route believe, however, that while it is important to preserve the National Heritage Site, protecting the lives of the individuals who travel through Holland Bamboo is of far more importance and that the ministry should be proactive in addressing the issue as it is not possible to tell which trees would fall at what point in time.