Lack of support for heritage tourism - Mayor Fisher
Claudia Gardner, Assignment Coordinator
Councillor Everton Fisher, the mayor of Black River and chairman of the St Elizabeth Parish Council, said that the relevant state agencies have failed to promote Black River as a heritage tourism site, despite the town's great potential.
Fisher made his comments during a recent Gleaner State of the Capital Editors' Forum in Black River. According to him, the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT) and the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) have both failed to provide funding to restore historic buildings in the town, many of which have fallen into disrepair.
"I don't know their (JNHT) source of funding, but you cannot ask me as mayor to preserve the heritage of these buildings while you sit and do nothing about it," said Fisher. "All over, heritage buildings, outside of probably the tax office, are run-down. They are in terrible condition. We don't have money as council to restore them."
He continued: "All the way along High Street are buildings that persons are asked to preserve under the heritage thing, and there is no assistance. It's either the heritage people find the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) or something. Black River doesn't even have a civic centre. If you even want to meet, there is no area, you have to borrow the library or even the church hall."
Black River has the distinction of being the first town in Jamaica to have had electricity, a motor car, and even a racehorse. It has numerous 18th-century structures, which are of great historical value.
When asked what steps the St Elizabeth Parish Council was taking to access funds and seek assistance to drive heritage tourism in the town, Fisher said proposals had "been submitted" but did not state specifically to which agencies. He nonetheless noted that the parish council had not sought support for tourism project proposals through the South Coast Resort Board, which has the responsibility to recommend tourism projects to the TPDCo for funding through the TEF.
BUY INTO BLACK RIVER
"It's not shortage of project proposals being sent," said Fisher. "The Greater Treasure Beach Sustainable Plan incorporates that. It needs persons to buy into the town of Black River. I am proposing as chairman of council, and I have said it to the current member of parliament. What we need to do is to go to the TEF and seek about $150 million. We might not reach the status of Falmouth, but we need to put in something of a Falmouth plan into Black River."
He continued: "That's why it takes the member of parliament to come on board; the parish council; chamber of commerce. All of us need to say to these agencies that have funds, listen, to restore the town of Black River, we need X or Y, and at the end of the day, you will reap the rewards. The whole tourism sector will be transformed," Fisher said.