Restoration, late-1990s

Fern Gully





'Fern Gully has always been a visual delight, if one does not remember what it used to be like.'
At the end of the '90s the efforts to restore Fern Gully to at least something of its former beauty were still failing to produce satisfactory results.

The 1999 initiative:

Daily Gleaner, January 13, 1999

Fern Gully gets face-lift

THE FERN Gully initiative to restore the pristine

charm and rain forest importance of the St Ann beauty spot got underway last week, with the

planting of hundreds of ferns to replenish the

depleting stock.

North Coast businessman and JLP Minister of State

spokesman for Tourism and the Environment,

Michael Belnavis, led a group of friends and

supporters, to begin the project he announced and

initiated last summer. Belnavis hailed the event

"a grand success"

The fern-planting exercise will be an ongoing one -

"a desperate move," says Belnavis, "to save Fern

Gully, and help to stop major soil erosion that could

threaten the town of Ocho Rios with massive

flooding during very heavy rainfall"

Belnavis has put together a 14-member board of

directors to help him administer the programme.

Peter Phillips

Daily Gleaner, January 23, 1999

For Fern Gully face-lift

The Editor, Madam:

I must use your column to commend the relevant

persons for undertaking "The Fern Gully Face Lift" project, (Daily Gleaner Jan 13, 1999) However I still have a major concern. This is regarding the "fern persons" present in the

gully. These individuals continue to strip the gully of

the ferns and use them to decorate themselves.

Whilst this is an interesting sight to the tourists who

frequent the gully, this practice has a long-term

consequence where preserving the beauty of the

gully is concerned. I hope the relevant persons will look into this matter.


Via Go-Jamaica

Daily Gleaner, January 24, 1999

Major road repairs for St Ann - Dr. Phillips

About $100 million is to be spent on major road repairs in St. Ann over the next six weeks. . . .

The Minister said that work on the Fern Gully road

would be done to facilitate easier access to the

resort town. However, he explained that the

Ministry was seeking to establish a claim on the

previous contractors who had not completed the

work satisfactorily.



 . . . but the problems still continued:

 Daily Gleaner, April 23, 1999

Protests continue in Fern Gully

Ocho Rios. St. Ann;

While the rest of the island cooled down from the

three days of protest [over gas prices], yesterday Ocho Rios heated up with a huge blockade in Fern


As early as 5.00 a.m. motorists were greeted with

burning tyres, gasolene spread across the road, old

wrecked vehicles, stones and other debris covering

a stretch of the popular tourist attraction.

The St Ann police and soldiers were quickly on the

scene and after a few testy exchanges with

residents, started clearing the blockade.

Daily Gleaner, May 27, 1999

The trailer-truck threat on the roads


The sheer size and menace of these units make their

drivers seem to be a law unto themselves; and the

fact that they are able to get away with some of the

things they do sends a wrong message to other road

users. For example, although trailers are not

supposed to use areas such as Fern Gully in St Ann, they can often be seen doing just that, endangering

the lives of other road users. One truck breaking down in Fern Gully can, and

often does, back up traffic to and from Ocho Rios

for hours. This contributes to lawlessness, as

every time one person gets away with bending the rules, others will follow the example.

 However, the work was started . . .
 Daily Gleaner, August 1, 1999

He [Peter Phillips] also mentioned that rehabilitation work in the Fern Gully will begin on Tuesday, with

half of the $12 million cost being borne by the contractors who carried out the previous rehabilitation work. The contractors had agreed to

bear some of the costs because of concerns about

the quality of work done under the previous


Daily Gleaner, August 3, 1999

Fern Gully closed

Fern Gully in St. Ann has been closed to the

motoring public between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.

daily for about one month, Milton Hodelin, director

of maintenance at the Ministry of Transport and

Works, said motorists should use alternate routes

through Breadfruit Hill Road and Chalky Hill Road

during those hours.

Fern Gully repairs

Repairs and rehabilitation to the road and drains in Fern Gully begins today. The work is estimated

to cost $12 million, with the Government paying half the amount. The remaining 50 per cent will be

borne by the contractors who did the original work.

Transport and Works Minister, Dr. Peter Phillips,

commended the contractors for taking

responsibility for the damage to the attraction,

noting that the work must be done to high standards.

Comment on the efforts in Fern Gully continued, however, to be essentially critical.

Daily Gleaner, August 6, 1999

Fern Gully again

  After the expenditure of millions of dollars to restore Fern Gully to something of its pristine splendour, the

Government has found itself in the position of having to spend another huge sum on the same project, just two

years after the work was supposed to have been done.

  Fern Gully, with its luxuriant growth of tropical trees and plants, is one of Jamaica's prime tourist attractions.

Unfortunately, it forms part of the much-used North Coast main road leading to the resort town of Ocho Rios.

  Because of the heavy traffic which has to pass through the tree-shaded ravine, the former beauty spot has

lost a great deal of its attractiveness. The road surface has been severely damaged and the vegetation ruined

by the toxic fumes from the buses, trucks, trailers and other heavy-duty vehicles which go through it daily.

  Hence the effort to restore it to some semblance of its former glory, with regard to the road surface and also

with an eye to the preservation of its natural vegetation.

  However, the road repairs which had been undertaken proved to be unsatisfactory, and so the Ministry of

Works has decided to have the work done over. The contractor on the first job has agreed to pay one-half of the

cost of the latest repairs, though Minister Phillips stilt felt constrained to warn against the consequences of not

doing work according to specifications.

  Now that another attempt is being made to make Fern Gully look like the beauty spot it once was, perhaps

it is not too much to ask that steps be taken to limit its use as a main road: certainly, monitoring its use by the heavy-duty vehicles which have been largely responsible for its deterioration over time. 


Daily Gleaner, August 10, 1999

Monitoring unit falls down on Fern Gully road

By Lynford Simpson, Freelance Writer

The Ministry of Transport and Works is admitting that failure on the part of its Monitoring Unit to identify

structural weaknesses at the time resurfacing work was done on the Fern Gully road in St. Ann less than two

years ago, is the main cause for the rapid deterioration of the structure.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Dr. Alwin Hales, said the road started going bad almost as soon as the

work was completed, following severe flooding in St Ann. Ironically, the work was done by General Paving

Company, the same firm which did the resurfacing of the Bog Walk Road, for which it has been commended.

But just what went wrong in the Fern Gully and is the Monitoring Unit, which is located in the Public Works

Department solely to blame? Dr. Hales explained that apart from the Unit, the Ministry employs consultants

to do site supervision and monitoring. He said the Unit is expected to do its own monitoring. Yet, with

consultants and a Unit staffed with civil engineers structural defects were not identified.

While the Unit is expected to work alongside the consultants, it has its own problems, chief of which is a staff

shortage. Of the four civil engineer positions in the department, only two are filled at the moment because of inadequate enumeration.

"It (inadequate renumeration) not only affects the Unit but the entire Ministry and it is something we are

addressing as a matter of urgency," the Permanent Secretary said.


 Daily Gleaner, November 25, 1999
Fern Gully an eyesore:
Unfinished road repairs 'an embarrassment'
Ocho Rios, St. Ann:

Fern Gully, once an awesome sight for tourists and locals, has gone from beauty spot to ugly duckling.

The Fern Gully road which has been dug up for resurfacing has become a source of inconvenience and embarrassment, say residents and tourism officials, Meanwhile taxi-drivers, tour operators and craft vendors say business has nose-dived since work started on the road four months ago. In recent months a number of accidents have also been reported along the uneven and potholed stretch of road.

Road repairs scheduled to last a month is three months behind while huge holes — channels for water — line the roadside.

Last week, frustrated by the situation, the St. Ann Chamber of Commerce called on the Ministries of Works, Security and Tourism to address the matter with urgency.

"This surely is a manifestation of the callous disregard for the many road users, a fair proportion of whom are visitors to our resort town," the Chamber said.

"Fern Gully doesn't have much to offer by way of scenic beauty as before," said Samuel Jackson, a taxi operator. "There was a time when it was one of our favourite spots to take visitors but now it's almost an embarrassment."

Mr. Jackson said that the insistence of truck drivers on going through Fern Gully, although there are signs telling them not to, has contributed to "the tragic destruction" of one of the island's most scenic areas.

Motorists have been asked to use the road through Breadnut Hill as an alternative route between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.

In August the Transport and Works Ministry signed a $12 million contract with General Paving Company Limited. Half the cost was to be borne by the contractor who initially worked on the road two years ago. Since then the area has rapidly deteriorated, due to severe flooding. At August's signing Transport and Works Minister Dr. Peter Phillips insisted that the contractors would have to take full responsibility for any shoddy work done the second time around.

The Kingston-based contractors is blaming bad weather for missing its deadline.

"The weather has been very unkind to us over the past couple of months and this has prevented us from completing the work. We had three good days last week and we got to lay as much asphalt as we could," said Anthony Matheson, project engineer for the contracting firm.

He noted that asphalt could not be laid during rainfall but that the resurfacing could be completed this week, weather permitting.

He also dismissed suggestions that the company had run out of money, after accepting responsibility for the previous work.

'Fern Gully to glow again'

 . . . and, at the very end of the 1990s, yet another project, promising 'environmentally friendly activities' which would be undertaken in Fern Gully.

Daily Gleaner, December 28, 1999

Chamber of commerce to aid enviro projects

The St. Ann Chamber of Commerce is now able to assist community-based and nongovernmental organisations to access funding for environmental projects up to a value of US$50,000 each.

Speaking at a function recently in Runaway Bay, St. Ann, Second vice-president of the Chamber, Andrew Grant, said a grant

for US$400,000 has been allocated to the organisation to finance projects in communities between Dunn's River and White River

and up to 10 miles inland.

The amount is part of a US$1.2 million allotment by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for

projects to be undertaken in Negril, Port Antonio, Ocho Rios and the environs.

Mr. Grant stressed that environmentally friendly organisations would be required to submit proposals to the Chamber for

approval before funds could be disbursed.

He pointed out that two projects have already been submitted, and if they were approved, persons would be able to get

connected to the Ocho Rios sewerage treatment system, and environmentally friendly activities could be undertaken in Fern Gully.