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We want a park fit for uptown

Published:Wednesday | April 11, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter

IF YOU visit Emancipation Park on any given day, you will find a well-kept recreation area.

It is immaculately laid out, complete with well-manicured lawns, water fountains and protected by eagle-eyed security guards. This is in New Kingston, the heart of corporate Jamaica.

But in the marker district - downtown Kingston - where a similar facility stands, there is hardly anything to shout about.

The St William Grant Park, although recently renovated, is not the place to be. The lawns are rugged, the surroundings look gloomy, and the air is filled with the stench of urine.

Cecil Thomas, a downtown resident, wants the lines between both parks blurred. Thomas wants the authorities to create an Emancipation Park-setting in St William Grant Park.

"The park should have more activities," Thomas said, noting that the downtown facility is mostly utilised by commercial interest to promote their products.

"I would like to see a jogging area ... [and] activities to get people to utilise the park," Thomas said.

Glaring contrast

Hundreds of people flock to Emancipation Park daily. Many use the facilities to jog, some for dancing, and others for lyming, while there are some who use it as a date spot.

Conversely, St William Grant Park appears to reflect the Kingston slum that surrounds it; hardly warm enough to persuade passers-by to relax momentarily in her arms.

Speaking at a recent Gleaner Editors' Forum metres from the St William Grant Park, Thomas chided the authorities for failing to do enough to ensure that the facility is attractive to the people who live, work or visit downtown Kingston.

He pointed to the urine stains that run a ring around the park as an example of a failure of the police to act.

"You have to put security in the area. Can you imagine? You have to be walking and jumping over urine stains," said Thomas.

He was supported by another resident, who argued that the urine stains reflect the failure of the authorities to properly operate the park.

Facilities lacking

"If you coming from country on a bus, you want to urinate when you come to Kingston. You try to go in the park, but it is locked, they don't have anywhere to go. And sometimes you don't have the money to pay the $40 or $50 to use the bathroom, so you have to look for a little corner," argued Raymond Vernal.

In the meantime, pastor of the Duke Street United Church, Eniola Davis, charged that the emphasis placed on ensuring the upkeep of Emancipation Park is driven mainly by socio-economic realties.

"You have the Pajeros and Audis that are parked from NHT (National Housing Trust) upstairs ... . So it's a different social class."

The St William Grant Park was recently upgraded by the Urban Development Corporation as part of the Downtown Kingston Development Plan.

The original contract sum for the renovation of the historic park was $90.3 million, but it ended up costing $121 million.