The Jamaica Conservation and Development Trust (JCDT), managers of the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park (BJCMNP) will be hosting a team of two consultants from an Austrian company from 16 – 18th January, 2018 as they initiate the Feasibility Study for a proposed cable car to Holywell. The Study was made possible through a grant from the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) of the Ministry of Tourism and is part of the wider support by the TEF for improvements to visitor facilities at the National Park.
On Tuesday the Austrian consultants along with a team from the JCDT visit a variety of sites along possible routes for the cable-car and on Wednesday a consultation meeting will include representatives from the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) and local community members and businesses. The consultants have been gathering information and will be conducting assessments and analyses to determine the financial feasibility of a possible cable car from Kingston to Holywell.
The concept has been brewing for well over twenty years when Mr. Robert Stephens a Director of the JCDT and former Chairman first suggested it. Such a project would improve and increase access to the Blue Mountains by removing the need to travel on the main road through Irish Town which is winding and threatened by landslides. Whilst the cable car would not remove the need for road travel by the visitors who plan to spend several days or even weeks in the mountains, this transportation mode would provide Jamaicans and visitors alike an easy opportunity for a day trip into the Blue Mountains. It is proposed that the route would end at Holywell, the main recreation area within the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park. Holywell currently offers a variety of guided trail tours, bird-watching and educational tours in addition to beautifully landscaped picnic areas with panoramic views of Kingston against the backdrop of cloud forest.
The TEF is funding the construction of a two storey building which will house a Café/Restaurant on the ground floor and a Visitors’ Centre housing a mini-museum and gift shop. The proposed cable-car would not only improve access to the attractions at Holywell but also those being improved at Newcastle and the surrounding restaurants, cafés and guesthouses. Further, access will be improved to the scenic Buff Bay Valley Road which will allow visitors to explore the Windward Maroon heritage in Charles Town and beyond that, in the Rio Grande Valley. Visitors can also use the Content Gap route to Mavis Bank to access the Blue Mountain Peak Trail.
Dr. Susan Otuokon, Executive Director, JCDT said that the feasibility study is an important aspect of business management for the National Park. “Currently, we receive only 30% of the budget for managing the 41,000 hectare property and must raise the balance through grants and from recreational facilities and services at Holywell, Portland Gap and the Peak Trail. The amount that can be raised from use of the recreational areas is limited by the low fees legislated for use of the National Park, although a small increase is anticipated this year. We hope that the cable car to Holywell will become a reality and will contribute to the protection of the unique biodiversity, rich cultural heritage and the ecosystem services the natural forests provide such as water supply and climate change mitigation and adaptation”.