Heritage at Risk – Heritage Tourism Loosing

From “Poems of Life” by Dr. Leonard Merrydale Comissiong (c.1940).

The poem above was written more than seven decades ago, and according to The Sentinel’s view is not very different from our GRENADA TODAY.

After listening to Mr. Simon Stiell – the recently appointed Director of the Board of Tourism, on the George Grant Sunday programme of 20th March 2011, one gets the feeling of déjà vu, we have heard it all before; but in fairness to Mr. Stiell we should give him the benefit of the doubt in his proposed strategic and pragmatic programme which the Board of Tourism is planning to undertake in the near future in order to remain competitive in the global arena.

 

 

Before going further, the Sentinel would like to congratulate the “Sunday with George Grant” programme in bringing important current national issues to the fore in an effect to educate and inform the Grenadian public. In this particular Sunday programme the public was very vocal in reminding Mr. Stiell of the “Jewel in the Crown”, both of which have been given lip service in the past.

The Crown is of course the tropical paradise of Grenada, and the jewel is its capital city of St. George. As the public by now is generally aware, the Willie Redhead Foundation from its establishment in 1994 has been an active participant in the rescue mission to save our capital city and our natural and cultural heritage in general.

Fort George

Fort George

“The city of St. George is recognized regionally, and perhaps internationally … The Organisation of American States as early as 1988 designated the city as “a monument of the wider Caribbean”.

Our original mantra in 1994 was “the Willie Redhead Foundation for the preservation and urban renewal of St. George’s”, which was later changed to “the Willie Redhead Foundation for the preservation and renewal of the National Heritage of Grenada”. Over the past sixteen years we have endeavoured to fulfill this mandate in several ways, the most important of which is / was to engage both the past and current administrations of the need to save the “jewel”, but with little or no positive response.

The city of St. George is recognized regionally, and perhaps internationally, as the Georgian Society of the United Kingdom over half a century ago gave it special mention as a unique Georgian town in the Caribbean. After the passing of Hurricane Ivan, in their assessment of the damaged caused, both the World Bank and the Caribbean Development Bank recommended to the then Government that the buildings in the city of St. George should be

Anglican Church – post Ivan

urgently repaired and or restored as the case may be as the historic city (the jewel) is of tremendous value in the economic recovery of Grenada and as a tourism product in particular. The Organisation of American States as early as 1988 designated the city as “a monument of the wider Caribbean”.

But when we examine what has taken place in the town since 1988 we see a city of neglect and perhaps gross abandonment as the Authority responsible for the protection of our built heritage appear not to have an understanding of the value of heritage in nation building and national identity and has become in fact, a part of the problem, when we observe the Regulatory Authority contravening its own regulations when granting building approvals especially in the case of existing heritage buildings.

… the historic city (the jewel) is of tremendous value in the economic recovery of Grenada and as a tourism product in particular.

Tibeau Graves, Carriacou

Unchecked erosion of Tibeau cemetery

In order to comprehend its wanton neglect lets take a look at Fort George with its enormous tourism potential, which has been alluded to by The Willie Redhead Foundation (tWRF) on several occasions in the past, and recently by a product of ST. John, now a United Kingdom Professor in the field of Education namely – Prof. Gus John in his memo to Government Ministers, the Market Square is now a shanty town, together with the buildings around the square, the depressing state of York House and the Governor General’s residence, Edinburgh House at the top of Young Street, the old St. James Hotel-not so long ago the home of the CID, the burnt-out L.A. Purcell store on Halifax Street, Rev. Byer’s family house on Lucas Street, the Anglican and Presbyterian churches also the decaying Forde “Sedan Chair” building and the unsightly and incomplete Lawyer’s office all on Church Street, Bachelor’s Lodge and the old Freida Martin house on Simmons Alley, the Drill Yard complex including the old Ministries of Works, Education and the Museum, not forgetting those on the Carenage and other parts of the town.

The foregoing represents some of the major challenges; coming a close second are the number of small business houses in the town that require a face lift, which need not be an expensive exercise if professional planning and management are employed in its execution, but this require the coordinated will of the business community and meaningful government partnership and perhaps leadership.

The above scenario gives a bird’s eye view of the state of Heritage Preservation in the city of St. George, and begs the question whether heritage preservation / restoration is recognized by the powers that be as a developmental component in its National Development Programme.

Abandon Building on the Carenage

This is the challenge which the Director of Tourism will have to confront and address in a meaningful way if the “jewel” is to be saved from the unrelenting pressures from both man and the forces of nature.

Although the challenges are daunting, it can still be accomplished with dedication and singularity of purpose. In this regard the Willie Redhead Foundation stands ready to assist in accomplishing the desired result, in order that our HERITAGE TOURISM product may become the envy of our Caribbean neighbours. There must be however a serious commitment at capitalizing on the enormous economic potential of this sector which could become a major contributor to our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and a sign of our blossoming cultural maturity as seen in Curacao, Aruba, Bermuda, St. Kitts and Barbados.

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