A Lot Of The Problems Jamaica Faces Are Wonderful Opportunities For A Tremendous New Beginning…

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Over the years I have writ­ten quite a bit about the need for the Government of Jamaica to ful­ly har­ness the nat­ur­al resources of our beau­ti­ful Island by des­ig­nat­ing them nation­al parks and devel­op­ing them accord­ing­ly. Though a rel­a­tive­ly small land-mass Jamaica has a litany of beach­es, moun­tain-range, water­falls and oth­er nat­ur­al attrac­tions which are unique only to Jamaica.
I have always believed that as our coun­try strug­gle to find ways to deal with the eco­nom­ic con­di­tions asso­ci­at­ed with our ever explod­ing pop­u­la­tion, har­ness­ing all of the Island’s nat­ur­al trea­sures for the ben­e­fit of the peo­ple is crit­i­cal.
To date Jamaica is the 6th most pop­u­lous coun­try in the world, that sit­u­a­tion is not like­ly to change for the bet­ter any time soon. Any plan which is intend­ed to cre­ate wealth and pros­per­i­ty must be com­prised with the elim­i­na­tion of waste and cor­rup­tion as well as tak­ing full advan­tage of our nation­al trea­sures even as we take care to pre­serve them for gen­er­a­tions to come.
The con­cept of nation­al parks is not a nov­el con­cept, it has been done through­out his­to­ry in nations all across the globe. The United States has done a remark­able job of des­ig­nat­ing mil­lions and mil­lions of acres of land under the nation­al parks pro­gram which has pre­served the pris­tine nature of those hectares while gen­er­at­ing income for the Federal Government and pro­vid­ing employ­ment for hun­dreds of thou­sands of American cit­i­zens.

California's Yosemite Valley—with stunners such as El Capitan, at left, and the Merced River—inspired early European visitors to call for its protection.

California’s Yosemite Valley — with stun­ners such as El Capitan, at left, and the Merced River — inspired ear­ly European vis­i­tors to call for its pro­tec­tion.

The parks were born because in the mid-1800s a rel­a­tive­ly small group of peo­ple had a vision — what writer Wallace Stegner has called “the best idea we ever had” — to make sure that America’s great­est nat­ur­al trea­sures would belong to every­one and remain pre­served for­ev­er. “Americans devel­oped a nation­al pride of the nat­ur­al won­ders in this nation and they believed that they rivaled the great cas­tles and cathe­drals of Europe,” explains David Barna, National Park Service Chief of Public Affairs.

Early Efforts

Yosemite was at the heart of America’s nascent nation­al parks move­ment. The California valley’s splen­dor inspired some of its ear­li­est European vis­i­tors to demand pro­tec­tion, even as set­tlers moved cease­less­ly west­ward, “civ­i­liz­ing” the West and dis­plac­ing native peo­ples. Elegant voic­es, like that of nat­u­ral­ist John Muir, brought the grandeur of such lands to those who had nev­er seen them. His pro­lif­ic and wide­ly pub­lished writ­ings stressed how such wild places were nec­es­sary for the soul, and his advo­ca­cy lat­er became the dri­ving force behind the cre­ation of sev­er­al nation­al parks. Responding to such calls, Congress and President Abraham Lincoln put Yosemite under the pro­tec­tion of California dur­ing the Civil War. In 1872 Lincoln’s for­mer gen­er­al, President Ulysses S. Grant, made YellowstoneAmerica’s — and the world’s — first tru­ly nation­al park. More parks soon fol­lowed suit and, begin­ning in the late 19th cen­tu­ry, cul­tur­al sites like Arizona’s pre­his­toric Casa Grande were hon­ored as well.President Theodore Roosevelt was one of the park system’s great­est patrons. During his admin­is­tra­tion (1901−09) five new parks were cre­at­ed, as well as 18 nation­al mon­u­ments, four nation­al game refuges, 51 bird sanc­tu­ar­ies, and over 100 mil­lion acres (40 mil­lion hectares) of nation­al for­est. http://​trav​el​.nation​al​geo​graph​ic​.com/​t​r​a​v​e​l​/​n​a​t​i​o​n​a​l​-​p​a​r​k​s​/​e​a​r​l​y​-​h​i​s​t​o​ry/.

I was thrilled to see the new Administration in Kingston announce that a plan was being devel­oped to have German help for Jamaica to devel­op parts of the Blue Mountain range into a nation­al park. Though thrilled about the idea I believe the plan has not gone far enough in har­ness­ing every trea­sure under the gov­ern­men­t’s con­trol and devel­op­ing them where pos­si­ble into nation­al parks.
It’s impor­tant that it be under­stood that a nation­al park does not mean tak­ing a piece of land and putting in foun­tains, flow­ers, and oth­er niceties. In many cas­es the exact oppo­site is true. The idea is to main­tain the nat­ur­al pris­tine nature of the place with min­i­mal changes nec­es­sary to make it attrac­tive and a source of rev­enue for the Government and peo­ple for gen­er­a­tions to come.

Jamaica To Get German Help To Develop National Park

Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett in seek­ing to address the con­tin­ued prob­lem of tourist harass­ment is con­tem­plat­ing leg­is­la­tion which would give the Courtesy Corp pow­er of arrest as a means to cut­ting back on the harass­ment of vis­i­tors to our Island.
The Courtesy Corps a group of secu­ri­ty offi­cers which oper­ates under the Tourism Product Development Company since it’s cre­ation in 2009 would be a smil­ing, warm and friend­ly look, while at the same time have a strong and force­ful hand to deal with sit­u­a­tions as they arise,” if Bartlett gets his way.
The issue of National parks, Tourist harass­ment and the inevitable explo­sion of Cuba as a tourist des­ti­na­tion in the near future offers the lead­er­ship in Kingston the oppor­tu­ni­ty to think big rather than try­ing to do piece-meal approach­es.

What is the obses­sion with cre­at­ing oth­er police forces? How about a broad­er idea which includes a National Parks project tak­ing into con­sid­er­a­tion the afore­men­tioned rea­sons and des­ig­nate the exist­ing cour­tesy corp “park rangers”?
If we have learned any­thing from our expe­ri­ences as Jamaicans it is that hav­ing more secu­ri­ty guards does noth­ing to reduce crime. It’s hard to imag­ine any coun­try with more secu­ri­ty guards per square miles than Jamaica, yet we are right up there as one of the most vio­lent, most mur­der­ous places on earth.

Rafting on the Martha Brae...

Rafting on the Martha Brae…

There seems to be an obses­sion with cre­at­ing lit­tle pseu­do police forces which accom­plish pre­cious lit­tle except to exac­er­bate the crime sit­u­a­tion on the Island when the focus should be on upgrad­ing and equip­ping our police force.
As a young con­sta­ble, I spent a great deal of foot patrol hours in the resort towns of Ochi Rios, Negril, and Montego Bay, deal­ing with the prob­lem of harass­ment. Our efforts were a resound­ing suc­cess as it relat­ed to arrest­ing and remov­ing drug deal­ers and those who aggres­sive­ly pushed trin­kets on vis­i­tors while allow­ing ven­dors who obeyed the rules the oppor­tu­ni­ty to mar­ket their wares as they should to make a liv­ing.
The fail­ure as it were must be owned by the busi­ness sec­tor in these towns and the incom­pe­tent lazy Government which asked us to do the work while they banged on desks in Gordon House and bilked the nation’s cof­fers of its resources.
The busi­ness sec­tor failed to use its influ­ence to lob­by the Government for tougher penal­ties for repeat offend­ers who were arrest­ed sell­ing drugs to tourists or who threat­ened vis­i­tors for not buy­ing what they were sell­ing.
The Government, incom­pe­tent and uncon­cerned did noth­ing about the issue either. In the end, the prob­lem became too large, the courts were flood­ed with cas­es we had placed before them. The penal­ties for these offens­es were cer­tain­ly worth ignor­ing when stacked against the poten­tial gains.

Rafting on the Martha Brae...

Bamboo Avenue…

In the end trav­el com­pa­nies guid­ed their clients to all-inclu­sive resorts which lit­er­al­ly cut out the local pop­u­la­tion from deriv­ing any direct ben­e­fit from the tourism trade. It hap­pened because Jamaicans kept elect­ing incom­pe­tent hus­tlers and con-men/­women who lack vision to make deci­sions on their behalf.
All of these issues must be looked at in a broad­er con­text which cre­ates excit­ing new pos­si­bil­i­ties for our small nation only if we are able to look at the big fin­ished pic­ture instead of the lit­tle pieces of the jig­saw puz­zle.
Who will begin the slow tedious work of cre­at­ing the mas­ter­piece Jamaica was des­tined to be?