Fri | Dec 1, 2023

Commercial activities to cease at Blue Lagoon for reset

Hygiene, safety issues to be addressed

Published:Friday | August 12, 2022 | 10:14 AMGareth Davis Sr/Gleaner Writer

All commercial activities are to be temporarily halted at Portland’s Blue Lagoon, which has been plagued by incidents of drug peddling, extortion, and illegal rafting, to allow for a more structured management system to be implemented.

The decision comes on the heels of an incident in which a member of an international movie company filming in Jamaica was almost run over by a boatman while swimming at the eastern parish’s premier attraction last week.

In announcing the closure, which will take effect on August 29, Jamaica National Heritage Trust Chairman Orville Hill on Wednesday said that last week’s incident was just the latest of many that have endangered the lives of tourists and locals using the facility, despite repeated attempts to sensitise players.

“There are too many players in the limited space as it is now,” Hill said, noting that the crisis is compounded by a lack of bathroom facilities at the location.

“ ... That in itself presents some amount of health hazard that we need to correct as we go forward. We have to make sure that all the products that we put out complies with all the legal requirements, and rafting on seawater is not permitted by Jamaican law. Rafting is really for river courses, and so that really is an area of challenge as well,” he added.

Several agencies, including the Tourism Product Development Company, the Portland Municipal Corporation, the Alligator Head Foundation, the Ministry of Culture, Entertainment, Gender Affairs and Sport, the Blue Lagoon Alliance, along with the police, staged an emergency meeting on Wednesday to examine the current situation and hammer out a way forward.

The most recent concern is the reported sighting of crocodiles in the area last week.

“There is some confirmation that a crocodile – either one or two crocodiles – may be in the area and a NEPA (National Environment and Planning Agency) representative was also present. NEPA is taking control of that aspect of it in terms of trying to identify and to see how best they can relocate the reptile,” said Hill.

Among the commercial activities to cease by monthend are rafting, boat rides, selling of food, and all forms of vending.

Phase 1 of the implementation aspect of the new measures will include the sensitising of both the Blue Lagoon and Winnifred tour operators.

Following the completion of the upgrade, players will be trained in how to operate within an attraction and made aware of all legal requirements.

Commercial activities are expected to be resumed in October during National Heritage Week.

Nicky Myers, general manager of the Alligator Head Foundation, said that the entity is committed to offer community support by establishing and preserving the space for the enjoyment by all.

“What we have now is an opportunity to put this into perspective to support the same community members that are there who have been asking for help for years. And what we have been able to do is to pull together all the stakeholders to look at sourcing the help that they need to get things done,” Myers said.