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No one in charge!

Published:Thursday | May 6, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Horace Wildes, president, St Ann chamber of commerce.
Taxi drivers take over this Total gas station in the town of Ocho Rios in St Ann. - photos by Norman Grindley/Chief Photographer

Carl Gilchrist, Gleaner Writer

PRESIDENT OF the St Ann Chamber of Commerce, Horace Wildes, has called on Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett to re-establish the Ocho Rios Resort Board, as the resort town continues to lose millions of dollars from the tourist industry due to deteriorating conditions.

The call was made last Thursday at a Gleaner Editors' Forum at the chamber's offices and came after it emerged from discussions that there was no organisation to lead the town's efforts at tourism development since the resort board, which previously had that responsibility, was disbanded by Bartlett under controversial circumstances some time ago.

"The chamber is making a call for the re-establishment of the Ocho Rios Resort Board," Wildes told the gathering which consisted of a dozen of the parish's leading spokespersons.

Wildes suggested it made no sense that an organisation that was created to fill a void be discarded while the void still exists.

"The town looks disgusting and no one seems to know who is responsible," lamented Dr John McDowell of the St Ann Restoration Company.

Tourist fears

Participants at the forum highlighted a growing fear by cruise-ship passengers mainly because of harassment and a dirty and unsightly town. Regarding the state of the town, Johnny Marsh, regional coordinator for the Tourism Product Development Company, revealed that the agency recently asked business operators on Main Street, Ocho Rios, to participate in an adopt-a-road programme "so we could transform from Reynolds Pier to Coconut Grove".

"If we don't improve the appearance, we will not have a good (tourism) product," Marsh warned. But he admitted that the impetus for such a plan was not there.

Vana Taylor, of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association, said reviews from guests indicated that Ocho Rios was "dirty and unsightly".

She, too, warned: "We have to get Ocho Rios clean, not only for visitors but ourselves."

The roles of the parish council, the National Works Agency, the National Solid Waste Management Authority, the member of parliament and councillor were questioned in relation to keeping the town clean.

While Taylor squarely placed the blame on the St Ann Parish Parish Council, Mayor Ivan Anderson made it known that while all the aforementioned state agencies have been involved in cleaning the town, the council, which should be the lead planner, has been given "basket to carry water" as oftentimes work was carried out without any notice to the council.

It also emerged that oftentimes activities by several agencies overlapped as there was no communication between them, a role the resort board had filled in the past.