MoBay heritage sites under threat from illegal vending
Sheena Gayle, Gleaner Writer
WESTERN BUREAU:Chairman of the Tourism Product and Development Company (TPDCo), Maxine Henry Wilson, is disturbed illegal vending is compromising the allure of the historical Cage and Montego Bay Civic Centre in Sam Sharpe Square.
"We have to insist that refurbished sites are taken care of. Funds from the Tourism Enhancement Fund will be allocated to refurbish the Civic Centre but conditions will be attached to that project as it relates to the managing of the facility," Henry-Wilson said.
Mayor of Montego Bay Glendon Harris, in a previous interview, expressed his discontent with the widespread streetside vending that also encroaches on heritage and tourist sites in the resort town.
"It has to be done in collaboration with the stakeholders. We will be working to bring back Thursday Night Hip Strip so it gives vendors and others an opportunity to vend in a carnival atmosphere," Harris said at the time.
The mayor also insisted that while the practice of pedestrians and vendors competing for space on the sidewalk in the resort town would be addressed, the St James Parish Council would execute its plans in an organised manner.
no prosecution powers
However, the TPDCo chair admitted that the entity could only urge stakeholders to protect its landmarks as it cannot prosecute.
"We do not have prosecution power to ensure that facilities restored by funds from agencies under the Ministry of Tourism are maintained. We can only implore more vigilance to ensure it is maintained," explained Henry-Wilson.
On any given evening, several vendors converge near The Cage and the Civic Centre to peddle their wares with scant regard for their historical significance and value as tourit sites.
According to the Jamaica National Heritage Trust website, The Cage was built in 1806 and was used as a holding area for enslaved Africans, disorderly seamen, and vagrants.
In about 1822, the Vestry replaced the wooden structure of The Cage with one of stone and brick. It still stands and is often visited by tourists. The Civic Centre was once a courthouse and was completely restored in 2001. It is a multifaceted facility with provision for a museum, art gallery, performing arts area, and conference facilities.
However, today, the centre is characterised by filth and grime homeless persons, as well as prostitutes who use the rear of the facility at night to carry out their sexual transactions.