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Minister of Agriculture and Lands, Hon. Roger Clarke has said that amendments to the Public Gardens Regulation Act would “bring the management of public gardens into the 21st century and let us be better able to revive the civic pride all Jamaicans felt in visiting and using our gardens”.
Piloting the Bill to repeal the Act in the House of Representatives yesterday (Nov. 21), Mr. Clarke pointed out that it was timely since “more and more Jamaicans are visiting the Gardens; in particular, the Royal Botanic Gardens at Hope for relaxation in what appears to be a Renaissance they are now making requests for passive recreational activities such as weddings, cultural and social events”.
The Act serves to protect the public gardens, which the Minister said “functions as a repository for research in endemic flora and ideally, should offer the public with education on botanic and environmental issues”.
Furthermore, he stated that due to the high demands on the public gardens, there had to be charges affixed to their use although “there was no legal basis for charging fees”.
Minister Clarke explained that the amendments to the 107 year old Act, would “take on present day realities and seeks, inter alia, to broaden the definition of public gardens to include scenic avenues, define zoo and deal with the function of public gardens and zoos as places for passive recreation, plant conservation and management, the promotion of public education on botanic, zoological and environmental issues as well as research”.
A public garden is defined as any land vested in the Commissioner of Lands and designated by him/her or any entity acting on their behalf for use as public gardens, while he defined a zoo as public place, which may be in a public garden, where a collection of animals is lawfully maintained for purposes of exhibition, conservation or study.
There are currently six public gardens, and the Hope Zoo, which is administered by the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands. The gardens include; Bath Botanical, Castleton Botanical, Cinchona Botanical, Royal Botanical at Hope, Fern Gully in St. Ann, and Holland Bamboo in St. Elizabeth.