Last updated: 02:03 PM ET, Tue November 03 2015

Jamaica Enhancing Visitor Experience at Blue and John Crow Mountains

Destination & Tourism | Brian Major | November 03, 2015

Jamaica Enhancing Visitor Experience at Blue and John Crow Mountains

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Jamaica’s government is taking steps to ensure the development of the recently named Blue and John Crow Mountains UNESCO World Heritage Site for visitors and residents, said Portia Simpson Miller, Jamaica’s prime minister.

In a speech at the October 30 opening ceremony of the site in the Moore Town district of Jamaica’s Portland parish, Miller said the government is exploring a partnership with the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC) to develop local craft industries by “strengthening the product and marketing capabilities of the local communities.”

In a report on the government-run Jamaica Information Service, Miller said a partnership will also be forged with Jamaica’s Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) to “develop a culinary niche market for (the) packaging and distribution” of indigenous agricultural products and the development of “sustainable farming techniques.”  

The project is expected to create opportunities for local entrepreneurs, food preparation professionals, shop operators, fruit and vegetable vendors and farmers, said Miller. In addition the Institute of Jamaica will operate a “living museum” at the World Heritage Site, creating opportunities for cultural exchanges between community residents and visitors to the site, she said.

“We are also strengthening home stay visits wherein residents open up their homes to target groups,” said Miller. “Every individual, if he or she has a vision, can partake in the rich culture of the Blue and John Crow Mountains.”

The mountains were designated UNESCO World Heritage sites in July and are part of a Jamaican national park that features 7,400-foot-high Blue Mountain Peak, the country’s highest point. The entire 193,000-acre site represents 4.5 percent of Jamaica’s land mass.

Blue Mountain and John Crow Mountains National Park (BJCMNP) contains Jamaica’s largest contiguous tract of closed broad-leaf forest, according to UNESCO. The park’s rainforests include the last of two known habitats of the giant swallowtail butterfly, the Western Hemisphere’s largest.

Moore Town, the main community of Jamaica’s Windward Maroons, is located within BJCMNP territory. The Maroons are descendants of escaped slaves who battled Britain’s military until a 1739 peace treaty. BJCMNP’s World Heritage designation is due in part to UNESCO’s regard for the site’s importance as “a refuge (for) the Maroons in their fight for freedom and self-determination.”

Under the 1739 treaty, the Maroons retained their sovereignty and today maintain traditions in religion, language, music and dance. Community residents also possess an extensive knowledge of medicinal plants. UNESCO is working with Moore Town’s Maroon Council to provide assistance in preserving their cultural heritage.

“It was an overwhelming joy for us when we were declared a World Heritage Site,” said Colonel Wallace Sterling of the Moore Town Maroon Council. Sterling said the site will help “(bring) economic autonomy to the people of the area,” according to the JIS report.

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