JIS News

The first segment of the four-phase project to upgrade the National Heroes Park in Kingston is on target and should be completed by December of 2004.Lorna Perkins, Director of Physical Planning in the Ministry of Local Government, Community Development and Sport, told JIS News that already, work has been completed on the games court and car park, to accommodate approximately 150 vehicles with four spaces for large buses and five taxis.
In progress was the landscaping of the Heroes Memorial Area, construction of external walls, installation of lighting, irrigation pipes and pump station and the construction of a well to ensure continuous supply of non-potable water for irrigation purposes. The well should be completed by the end of this year.
Mrs. Perkins informed that a total of $8.7 million was being spent on this phase of the work, with the Environmental Foundation (EFJ) of Jamaica putting up most of the funds. The Ministry of Finance and Planning funded the construction of the parking facility. The project enjoys the support of the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation (KSAC), while Seemat Construction Company Limited holds the contract for the project.
She said the park, when completed, would feature an activity and recreation zone for cycling, jogging track, as well as netball and football courts; a promenade highlighting the outstanding features of the different parishes; historical gardens; upgraded periphery fencing and security; restored 1897 Georgian statue and water fountain; manmade stream running through the park; a cultural zone featuring a heroes memorial area as well as an open air amphitheatre, ceremonial entrance and internal gates. There will be an administrative building with indoor sports complex and upgraded gym.
With regards to a specific time for the completion of the project, Mrs. Perkins said this depended greatly on the funding available. The development project was estimated at $200 million in 2001. “At the moment we are seeking funding for the different phases and therefore, cannot reveal any specific time currently,” she told JIS News.
She noted that while EFJ and the Ministry of Finance had financed the first phase of the development, much more funding was required and the business community was being encouraged to sponsor parts of the project.Pointing to the significance of the project, Mrs. Perkins stated that, “the redevelopment of National Heroes Park will for the long-term, protect and conserve the cultural integrity of its historical feature, provide opportunities for low impact enjoyment of nature and promote education as well as non-destructive research.”
She noted that apart from serving community members, the redevelopment of the park would go a long way in enhancing the tourism product. “The park will serve the surrounding communities, Jamaicans both here and abroad and visitors to the island,” she stated.
An open lot for horseracing and other recreational activities before being named George VI Memorial Park in 1956 in tribute to the late King of England, the facility was in 1962, developed and renamed the National Heroes Park and is to be the final resting place of some of the country’s outstanding citizens.
Buried there are Right Excellencies Sir Alexander Bustamante, Norman Washington Manley and Marcus Garvey. Garvey was initially buried in England where he had died in 1940, however, his remains were returned to Jamaica in 1964 and re interred in the park with full state honours.
Monuments and shrines have been erected over the years to honour the other heroes. There is one to mark the Morant Bay Rebellion and the National Heroes linked with it – the Right Excellencies Paul Bogle and George William Gordon – while monuments for the Right Excellencies Sam Sharpe and Nanny of the Maroons have also been erected.
There is also a National War Memorial in honour of those Jamaicans who died in the two world wars. A bust of Cuban patriot, General Anthony Maceo, who was a leader in the Ten Year’s War (1868-1878), the first major war for Cuba’s independence from Spain, can also be seen in the park. Cuba gave the bust to the government and people of Jamaica for the hospitality and assistance extended to their hero.
Another section of the park, referred to as the National Cemetery, is where those who are recognized for having made significant contribution to national life are buried. Currently, persons such as former Prime Ministers Sir Donald Sangster and Michael Manley; singer Dennis Brown; artist Mallica ‘Kapo’ Reynolds; actor Ranny Williams; and labour leaders Ken Hill and Aggie Bernard are all buried there.
“National Heroes Park is the final resting place for our national heroes and outstanding Jamaicans. It is a hidden gem and the largest open space remaining in Kingston,” Mrs. Perkins points out.

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