Cabinet has approved the drafting of a new Public Gardens Regulation Act. The Act, which is expected to come on stream by early 2004, will deal with the general supervision of public gardens throughout the island.
Minister of Information, Senator Burchell Whiteman, made the announcement at a post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House on October 13.
Royal Botanic (Hope Gardens)
The current Act was announced publicly and put into effect in 1899. Senator Whiteman pointed out that the Act reflected the condition of the times, when a lot of pride went into the maintenance of public gardens and public spaces. However, he said it needed to be changed to reflect the present reality.
Currently, there are six public gardens and the Hope Zoo, overseen by the Ministry. There are also the Bath, Castleton, Cinchona, and Royal Botanic (Hope Gardens), in addition to other attractions such as Fern Gully, St. Ann and Holland Bamboo Grove in St. Elizabeth.
Mr. Whiteman pointed out that, the current law did not allow private and non-governmental organizations to participate in the management and operations of gardens and zoos, adding that at present there are interested parties.
“A new Act will support the proposed development of Hope Estate and its management by Nature Preservation Limited and other non-governmental organizations, and will in fact allow for other public gardens to be managed by non-governmental organizations and private sector entities,” Minister Whiteman said.
Included in the new Act will be powers to: undertake fund-raising activities; charge user fees, as determined by the Minister, and gazetted occasionally; engage in contractual arrangements for passive recreational activities; host functions, and set and vary the opening hours for public gardens and zoos.
In addition, there will be penalties for unauthorized picking of fruits and plants, the destruction of gardens and flowerbeds, as well as unauthorized vending. There will also be provisions for fines not exceeding $250,000, imprisonment or community service to restore any plant or garden vandalized or destroyed.