Castleton Gardens seeks help to bloom
Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer
CASTLETON, St Mary:
THE CASTLETON Botanical Gardens in St Mary is moving to recapture its former glory through funding from the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCO) and the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), but is also looking for additional partnerships to make it into a top-class nature showpiece.
At the Earth Day celebration on April 20 (two days before Earth Day), Raymond Ramdon, the superintendent of parks and gardens, explained that financial challenges had made it much more difficult to maintain the 10-hectare property.
"There is a limitation to the funding through central Government and so we have embarked on a programme to seek private-sector assistance, and the TPDCO, one of our main partners, is involved in undertaking a rehabilitation project which started in November 2011," he told The Gleaner.
This includes the construction of a new gazebo in the upper section of the gardens and the provision of garden furniture - three tables and six benches. They have completely refurbished the office building, two gazebos in the lower section, and are about to install tree labels and direction signs.
Looking for help
For Ramdon the intervention is much appreciated but he opines that more needs to be done to keep the facility well kept and attractive to visitors as it is open to the public every day, including public holidays.
He told The Gleaner: "We are still looking for help because right now there are about six entry points and two that are without gates, and it's a challenge because the garden's opening hours are fixed, but even when the garden is closed, we can still see people walking in and out."
In the past, funding agencies have rejected funding requests, insisting that management must first show how it plans to maintain the grounds and its facilities after rehabilitation. Entry to the gardens has been free since it opened in November 1962, but today's harsh financial realities could result in an entrance fee being charged.
Random explained: "The thinking is that Government cannot provide these facilities for free and we have to try to earn our keep. So for groups, we should charge some amount of fee, particularly those who are coming to have picnics where they occupy a space, a gazebo, or so. However, for the regular persons who are coming as a family, it would essentially still be free for the time being. In fact, some civic-minded groups have responded well to the suggestion, donating cash or cement, which has been used to repair pathways.
Located in Castleton, St Mary, where it is caressed by the Wag Water River as it flanks the main roadway connecting the parish with the capital, Castleton Gardens is one of five national botanical gardens Jamaica boasts.