Rio Grande Rafting still under threat from mining
ST MARGARET’S BAY, Portland: Rio Grande Rafting, Portland’s premier tourist’s attraction, is once again under threat from pollution caused by sand mining. President of the Raft Captains Association at Rio Grande Rafting, Lawrence Chisholm, has...
ST MARGARET’S BAY, Portland:
Rio Grande Rafting, Portland’s premier tourist’s attraction, is once again under threat from pollution caused by sand mining.
President of the Raft Captains Association at Rio Grande Rafting, Lawrence Chisholm, has expressed concern that sections of the river are heavily polluted by gasolene, grease, and other chemicals emitted from tractors and other heavy-duty equipment used in sand-mining activities.
Chisholm, who spoke to The Gleaner on Wednesday, argued that the Tourism Product Development Company, which currently manages the river tour, should shoulder some of the blame since it has introduced shorter trips in the polluted section of the river.
“The trip from Berrydale, which is the original embarkation point for tourists travelling on rafts on the Rio Grande, takes approximately eight hours, while the short trip from Rafters’ Rest to Burlington is about one and a half hours,” said Chisholm, who noted that sand mining takes place daily in Burlington.
“For that short trip, tourists encounter all forms of pollution – smoke from the heavy-duty equipment and chemicals that are spilled into the water. No tourist that goes on that short trip is able to swim in that water as it is muddy. When we sail from Berrydale, tourists have many opportunities to swim in the river at various points of the journey, which makes more sense. And, of course, sand-mining activities take place in Berrydale, but once we pass that mining area, it is a much smoother and better ride for tourists.”
Repeated attempts by The Gleaner to National Environment and Planning Agency CEO Peter Knight for comment were unsuccessful as his phone went unanswered.
In June 2022, Matthew Samuda, the minister without portfolio with responsibility for the environment, toured sections of Burlington with Portland Eastern Member of Parliament Ann-Marie Vaz.
Samuda noted then the importance of “finding solutions in a manner that allows persons to co-exist and allows commercial activity to happen within the boundaries that keeps this amazing natural resource sustained”.
In the meantime, Delano Seiveright, senior strategist in the Ministry of Tourism, underscored the importance of tourism to Portland, with particular focus on the preservation of rafting activities on the Rio Grande.
“We are deeply concerned. The Tourism Product Development Company is preparing a note on the matter as we speak to bring to [Tourism] Minister Edmund Bartlett’s immediate attention,” he said.
“The Rio Grande is a national treasure and it is definitely a critical part of our tourism product, and we cannot, under any circumstances, allow anything to damage that. Portland is a special place, and Rio Grande Rafting has been around for several decades, which makes it a rich part of our tourism history,” Seiveright added.