Once again, Sunday Gleaner columnist Prof Carolyn Cooper has hit the nail squarely on the head. She has been tackling some issues dear to my heart – in particular, “development” issues – development in quotation marks, because what our Government considers development does not really accord with the development and wellbeing of the people. To me, development means a bit more than making a profit out of, and reducing access to, a national natural resource. There are often environmental concerns involved, but in particular the social angle is absolutely critical. I have happy memories of our last visit to Fort Clarence, a little before the COVID period. It’s not a perfect beach and the water quality may not be the best, but it was an utterly relaxing day – with my brother and his wife from “foreign,” who loved watching children splashing around and people eating ice cream and just “chilling.” We bought snacks and fish here and there at reasonable prices, and reasoned with locals. This was before it was closed for years and then reopened with a vastly increased entrance fee – and apparently, only one purveyor of food at a price not far off that of a fancy New Kingston restaurant. This is so thoughtless and as they say “tone deaf,” it makes no sense. Our beaches are important to us (and so, too, is our heritage, AND our mineral baths, other places conducive to our wellbeing!) Thank you for continuing to press this issue, Prof Cooper. We will NOT be visiting Fort Clarence Beach – a place of happy memories over the years – any time soon. And I just pray they don’t turn Rockfort Mineral Bath into a dolphinarium for cruise ship passengers! But, we already know that we “dry-land tourists” don’t rank very highly, these days. We don’t deserve nice things.
A couple of weeks ago, one of my friends sent an email with this subject line, “My favourite activist …” She asked, “Do you know if the Cement Company plans to expand towards Rockfort mineral bath closing it off permanently? I’d be heartbroken especially as it should be one of our national treasures!” My friend did not know that the Rockfort Mineral Bath was declared a national monument in 1992. The property, which includes the remains of a fort, is actually owned by the office of the Commissioner of Lands. It was leased to the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT), which, in turn, leased it to the Caribbean Cement Company Ltd (CCCL).
The JNHT website tells the story of the fort: “Located at what was once called Harbour Head. [sic] Rockfort was first fortified as protection against the possibility of a French invasion from Santo Domingo…
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