Restoration, 1983

UDC Milestones

1983-1984 Ocho Rios-Fern Gully upgraded; ferns replanted; retaining

walls rebuilt.

Daily Gleaner, November 12, 1998


Mr. Roy Thomas, former landscape architect, who served the

Corporation with distinction, for 19 years until his retirement in 1993.

Roy stamped his mark on a large number of the UDC's projects implemented during his tenure, with his natural flare for landscaping

and making buildings/projects come alive with beauty.

He was responsible for restoration and conservation done in Fern Gully

in 1983, to arrest erosion, replant and introduce new species of ferns.

An obituary, Daily Gleaner, October 24, 1999

Daily Gleaner, January 18, 1981


Fern Gully, in Ocho Rios, North-East St. Ann, is to be made a national park by the Government, at a cost

of $1.9 million. 

Included in the project is a by-pass road from Breadnut Hill. This will provide for the blocking off of

vehicular traffic through Fern Gully at a certain point. But the detour would be arranged in such a close

proximity to the scenic spot that visitors using vehicles would encounter no problem walking to the park from

their transport.

The project was one of several announced by M.P. for North Eastern St. Ann, Mr. Marsh at a special

meeting called in Ocho Rios, Silver, Seas Hotel of a wide cross-section of community leaders on Thursday January 15.

Attending were some 80 representatives of civic, tourism, Government and commercial interest.

Purpose of the meeting was to discuss "the total development of St. Ann," with particular emphasis on the

northeast resort coastline and the total involvement of each community and private sector with the drive, after the Government has provided, the necessary infrastructure, such as roads, water, housing (for low

income earners), educational, health and recreational facilities.

Special speakers at the meeting were the director of the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) Mrs.

Gloria Knight; the chairman of the Tourist Board, Mr. John Issa; and the chairman-designate for St. Ann

Development CommitteeMr Arthur Ziadie.

Daily Gleaner, January 28, 1981

Fern Gully c'ttee Minister meet

An eight-man technical committee which has volunteered to assist in the proposed development of Fern Gully as a National (recreation) Park, met with the Minister of State

for Construction, the Hon. Robert (Bobby) Marsh

on January 26.

The members including Dr. Patrick Fairbairn of the Natural Resources Conservation Department (NRCD); Mr. Basil Collins, Superintendent of Public Garden; Mr. Border G. Thornton, Mrs. Jean

Thomsen and Miss C. Tavares from the Town

Planning Dcpartment, Mrs. Beverly Miller and Miss

A. Haynes from the NRCD and Miss J Jones from

the Jamaica Tourist Board, outlined areas in which

they would contribute to the development. They also gave a brief history of Fern Gully, as far as

they knew, but informed the Minister that its

origin was either obscure or lost.


As one of Jamaica's unique beauty spots, Fern Gully they said was "struggling under pressure", 

 and they pointed out that this was evident from

exhaust fumes of crawling traffic through the

gorge. "This pollution reduces the amount of

varieties and vitality of the ferns, that in a few

years, we will hardly be able to find any ferns in the

valley", the members said.

Mr. Marsh explained that the project would be carried out on a phased basis. Construction of the

proposed bypass road through Breadnut Hill, would

be a priority measure to provide for orderly blocking-off of vehicular traffic from the gorge.

The park, would not only afford visitors relaxation

and sight-seeing but it would be an income-earner

for Jamaica as a tourist attraction, Mr. Marsh


It would also afford visitors an opportunity to

become familiar with the "poetic" names of

neighbouring districts, such as Maiden Hill, Spicy

Hill, Coffee Walk, Orange Hill and Happy Retreat.

Another meeting to discuss the project will take place in Ocho Rios, on Wednesday, February 4, at

10:00 a.m. -API


Daily Gleaner, January 23, 1982

Ocho Rios beauty project

An extensive beautification programme estimated

to cost $200,000 has been started by the Government in Ocho Rios, St. Ann.

The project is being funded by the Urban Development Corporation (UDC), and involves the

planting of trees and landscaping of specific areas including the round-about and the circle at the base

of the clock-tower.

Wooden signs etched in mahoe and displaying a welcome invitation to visitors to Ocho Rios, have

been posted at Dunn's River, White River and Fern Gully.

JIS reported that, commenting on the project, the Member of Parliament for the area, Minister

of State for Construction, Hon. Robert Marsh, said that the aim is to preserve and add to the

natural beauty of that part of the coastline which is

near St. Ann's Bay and the Seville National Park.

Daily Gleaner,
 March 14, 1982

Sunday Eagle Tribune

Scenic roadway tour of Jamaica

By Herbert Silverman

Only a few miles from Ocho Ribs we entered the

four mile stretch known as Fern Gully, a former

river bed now darkly shaded with tall hardwood trees, ferns of all kinds and an impenetrable

undergrowth. "The government is planning to make

this into a national park." David [Webster, a staff

member of the Jamaica Tourist Board] said as we

passed a small straw market which appeared

unexpectedly, on the left side of the road around a

curve. "It will be open for picnicking and nature

walking but not for cars. The mainroad will bypass

the area."

 however, enthusiasm for the project did not seem to be universal or overwhelming . . .
 and other problems continued to be pointed to . . .
 Daily Gleaner, November 2, 1983

JHTA concerned over future of Fern Gully

"The beauty of Fern Gully is being rapidly eroded,"

says the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association,

"and if remedial action is not taken to end the

deterioration we are going to lose one of the island's most unique spots."

The matter was discussed at a meeting of the

JHTA Council and general membership held, at the

Jamaica Hilton Hotel last week Wednesday, and

the decision taken to make immediate

representations to the government, a JHTA release


It was stated at the meeting that lead poisoning

from heavy vehicles was destroying plant life and

the suggestion made that such vehicles going to the

northcoast should use the Claremont Road.

Another proposal was that a road should be cut on

the other side of Fern Gully to be used by general


It was also decided that Government should be reminded of an announcement made some time ago

of the possibility of Fern Gully being converted

into a national park.


Daily Gleaner, January 24, 1984

Fern Gully Trees

THE EDITOR, Sir: The letter in the Gleaner of

January 14, from Mr. Charles Atkinson regarding

the huge guinep tree which fell in Premier Plaza

was of considerable interest to me. It was

fortunate that only vehicles were damaged and that

there were no personal injuries or death.

My family and I enjoy driving through Fern Gully,

but quite often I think of those huge trees

standing precariously on the banks at the edge of

the road. Does any one check to find out if those trees are firmly rooted, or if they are decaying

externally or internally, and whether they are likely

to fall as did the guinep tree in Premier Plaza?

I am etc.,


6 Oxford Road,

Kingston 5,

January 16, 1984


Daily Gleaner, March 24, 1984

Fern Gully

THE EDITOR, Sir:- I am a frequent visitor to

Jamaica and a great admirer of this island of

incomparable beauty; but this year I am horrified

to see the disgusting amount of litter lining the

roadside through Fern Gully which used to be one of the great natural beauty spots of Jamaica. Will

you please, in your newspaper, remind Jamaicans and their children to "Keep Jamaica Tidy" and so

encourage tourism.

I am, etc.,


Cowdray Park

Midhurst, Sussex I


March 7, 1984

 and a long-time advocate for Fern Gully added another plea:

Daily Gleaner, June 8, 1985


THE EDITOR, Sir - Dr. Ben Henry's letter about the environmental hazards of tourism which was published in your issue of June 2, 1985 is a welcome assurance of official concern.

Recently, I reported to Dr. Henry's Minister, Senator the Hon. Hugh Hart, that I counted 15 vendors'

stalls in Fern Gully which is a Protected Place and one of the world's great natural gardens. I provided a copy of my letter to both the Superintendent of Public Parks and Gardens and the Commissioner of Police.

Some vendors in Fern Gully have lit fires which will hasten the casualty of the fern population.

I am, etc.,



 The Director of Tourism herself seemed unimpressed with the UDC's efforts:
 Daily Gleaner, January 1, 1986


. . . . The exhibition was opened by Director of Tourism Miss Carrole Guntly who . . . . asked the

horticulurists to help the younger generation to preserve its floral heritage including natural  attractions such as Fern Gully in Ocho Rios and Bamboo Avenue in St. Elizabeth. She said that these two world-

reknowned attractions are today "a travesty of what they used to be", and that they were, "our unique

heritage which we should keep in sacred trust for our children and future generations".

and in spite of editorial approval in the press:

Daily Gleaner, March 4, 1986


There have also been improvements in the world-renowned beauty spot, Fern Gully, near Ocho Rios where retaining walls are being put in, lay-bys constructed and flowers planted.

other voices continued to express dismay:

Daily Gleaner, March 4, 1986

Fern Gully

THE EDITOR Sir - It was with great sorrow that I

saw the 'improvements' to Fern Gully as I was

passing through Ocho Rios today. 

I seriously wonder how much thought has been put

into the planning of this beauty spot. Trees are

being cut down on either side of the road to admit

more light, and where the trees are cut flower beds

are being planted. Areas of the banking are being

cleared of the dead leaves so that the plants may establish themselves in these man-made beds.

I love flowers and would welcome this kind of effort

m the right place, but this is not only misguided,

it's murder.

What could be more beautiful than the dapples of

sunlight filtering through the trees on the road.

There are various forms of beauty, some so

delicate that one must look twice to appreciate what is there. The soft light and natural look of this blessed part of our land is being replaced by a more

common form of beauty easily reproduced in any

park or round-about.

The increase of sunlight will mean the death of

many of the ferns now growing in these areas as

their habitat demands a high degree of shade with

its accompanying humidity.

Too bad Jamaica; another natural beauty spot is

being destroyed for the almighty American dollar. 

We might give some thought to the idea that our tourists might like to see the natural Jamaica and

not a second rate version of Central Park.

I am, etc.,


c/o Worthy Park (Farms) Ltd.,

Ewarton P.O.,

February 25,1986

Daily Gleaner, March 27, 1986

Beauty Spots

THE EDITOR, Sir:- Congratulations to the MPM and the UDC for the fine ornamental planting at the

Airport, downtown Kingston, Tom Redcam and

other roads such as that leading to Palisadoes. I am

all in favour of brightening up Kingston and other towns with colourful planting.

However, Jamaica has been blessed with a great variety of natural beauty; mountains and valleys,

beaches and mangrove forests, rivers, wet-lands

and dry areas such as Hellshire with its magnificent

clumps of cactus.

As roads were cut through some of these areas,

some of the natural beauty spots were noted and

kept for public enjoyment, Fern Gully was one. It

seems to me a great pity to start planting flowers and shrubs, building walls, diluting the impact of the

gully with its rocks and ferns. Diesel fumes may

have killed many ferns, but many still survive and

these could be helped and augmented.

Personally I think the same applies to other country

places. Dunn's River Falls has been converted

long ago into a man-made entertainment centre,

very nice too, but surely, some of Jamaica's natural

splendour could be kept. The crotons and oleanders planted at Hellshire may perhaps serve the purpose of making the place more home-like, but

there should still be a place for the spectacular

plants that used to dominate the land.

Bamboo Walk must have been planted many years ago. It is a unique and wonderful place, but many of

the bamboos are dying and no new ones planted.

Could the MPM use its skill to save the Walk - with

bamboos, please?

I am, etc.,


Box 597

Kingston 10

March 16,1986

However, the Prime Minister and the authorities at the Urban Development Corporation seemed satisfied with the Fern Gully efforts.

Daily Gleaner, February 18, 1986
Clean-up programme
The programme of clean-up is now proceeding to the next stage of beautification of roads and parks, painting of murals on walls and building of arcades for vendors stalls. This programme will involve Kingston and other major towns as well as the main highways to improve popular vending locations and points of beauty, such as Fern Gully on which work has already begun. [Seaga broadcast]

Daily Gleaner, March 27, 1986

The Prime Minister [Edward Seaga]  commended the UDC's beautification programme and said he was

impressed  with the progress being made. The replanting of Fern Gully in an attempt to restore it to its former beauty was well underway.

The landscaping now being earned out by the UDC to beautify Kingston involves planting of flowers on the

centre verges and sidewalk areas of main arterial roads such as Tom Redcam Avenue, Marescaux Road,

East Race Course . . . .

The programme also involves landscaping the Spanish Town Highway and selected areas of the route

leading to Ocho Rios, including Fern Gully.


Daily Gleaner,  April 12, 1986

For a more beautiful Fern Gully

THE EDITOR, Sir - Various interested persons have written to you expressing concern at the work being

done in Fern Gully by the Urban Development Corporation.

The Corporation is engaged in the restoration of plants and soil stabilisation in Fern Gully involving inter

alia the construction of retaining walls to halt soil erosion, spreading of top soil, planting of ferns and other

varieties of plants, the control of insects and disease, fertilising, pruning and cleaning.

Only those trees which are potentially dangerous to people and hazardous to traffic are being removed and

the only leaves removed are those that had accumulated on the ferns and were smothering them.

Everything is being done to encourage the growth of the existing ferns and it is intended to introduce

thousands of ferns of different varieties, the moreso since some of the existing varieties are particularly

vulnerable to the exhaust emission of motor vehicles.

Stone-walling is the most compatible method of stabilising the soil and preventing erosion and in a

comparatively short time the walls become covered with moss and lichen which m themselves make for quick

fern growth.

We do understand the concern which has been expressed and trust that the end result will be a better and

more beautiful Fern Gully.

I am, etc.,


Deputy General Manager, Urban Development Corporation

12 Ocean Boulevard



 Five years later, Desmond Henry wrote as though the work all still remained to be done!

Daily Gleaner, February 10, 1990

Community Tourism

Mandeville's example, Ochie's promise

By Desmond Henry

I believe there is the early likelihood of the expansion of the existing town [Ocho Rios] including the creation

of a bypass highway, along with the naming of Fern Gully as a protected natural park. Let's assume these

take place, here's what I think the town could do for itself.

First, the idea of a comprehensive replanting of the fern population in fern gully should be examined without

delay. If undertaken as a special works project, it could provide a source of real employment for hundreds

of women during its tenure, thus, adding to the generation of household income for the area. Once the

planting is complete, innovative designs for the gully's plan and use, in harmony with the environment, should be outlined and protected by law.

Thereafter, the area should be made a traffic-free zone and encouraged to be habituated at nights. This

means the possibility of installing-attractive, multi-colour lighting for its entire length, thus adding immense

visual and practical dimensions to its attractiveness. This would allow, for example, the staging of picnics by

day and festive promenades by night, extending enormously the opportunities for visitor/community contacts

through recreation, fun, sightseeing and commerce.

The continuing problem then, as now, seems to have been that no decision had been made as to whether Fern Gully was primarily an access road for Ocho Rios, which visitors would catch glimpses of while driving through, or whether, on the other hand, it was an attraction in its own right, which should be set up so that visitors could spend time moving up and down, enjoying the unique environment.