JIS News

As the final resting place for several Prime Ministers, National Heroes, and cultural luminaries, the National Heroes Park in Kingston symbolises a location rich in its historical importance.
With former Prime Ministers Alexander Bustamante (also a National Hero); Donald Sangster, Hugh Shearer and Michael Manley; National Heroes, Norman Manley and Marcus Garvey; and icons of Jamaica’s entertainment industry, Ranny Williams and Dennis Brown, among those buried there, the 20-hectare park’s relevance is unquestionable.
Acknowledging this, in 2000 the Cabinet mandated the Ministry of Local Government, Community Development and Sport to be responsible for the redevelopment of the 20-hectare park.
Five years later, Director of Urban and Regional Planning in the Ministry, Lorna Perkins tells JIS News that the redevelopment of National Heroes Park has been progressing fairly well.
The redevelopment project, to be carried out in four phases at an estimated cost of $250 million, has seen the near completion of the first phase, Mrs. Perkins says. The initial phase included the design and installation of the necessary infrastructure and utilities.
“Although one might not see a lot of visual work being done, [it is] because we have been concentrating on putting in the irrigation, fixing the well, and ensuring that the lighting facilities and all the infrastructure aspect of the work is done,” she explains.
Rehabilitative work evident to the eyes, she notes, include parking facilities now being made available at the eastern side of the park, and the current upgrading of the park’s historical gardens. Work is also underway at the Eventide Memorial site, in recognition of the scores of victims who perished in a fire and were buried in a mass grave.
The redevelopment’s first phase is set to conclude by year-end. Already, $50 million has been expended on the work. Financial support came from the Ministry of Finance, the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica, and the Ministry of Local Government.
Meanwhile, phase two of the redevelopment should realise “the completion of perimeter fencing, the completion of pathways and water features within the park.the putting in of the main entry gate and this will be on the north-eastern side of the park,” the Planning Director says.
Mrs. Perkins informs JIS News that the third and final phases will see continuous development, with administrative and recreational facilities being erected, benches laid about the grounds, and trellises and gazebos put up, and the grounds landscaped.
It is envisaged that the finished layout of the multi-purpose park will comprise four functional zones – a formal/cultural zone, a nature zone, an activity and recreation zone, and an administration zone/sports complex.
Upon completion, the formal and cultural zone will consist of the Heroes Memorial Area and the Parliament Square, within which there will be an open-air amphitheatre to be used as an assembly area for community and group meetings.
The nature zone will be added to display a lawn area with shade trees such as lignum vitae, blue mahoe, cotton, and Poinciana. It will also consist of wetlands and quiet areas for relaxation.
To be located along the perimeter of the grounds, the park’s activity and recreation zone will include exercise, educational and playground features to meet the needs of varying age groups. A jogging and exercise trail, a promenade that details art and craft from the island’s parishes are but two of the zone’s amenities.
Lastly, the administrative zone and sports complex will be constructed on the western side of the park and an indoor recreational complex will be developed. This will involve upgrading of the renowned Guinness boxing gym, and the construction of squash courts, areas for table tennis, and a swimming pool.
Plans for the redevelopment of the Park got off the ground in 2001 following several extensive community meetings, particularly with residents of the nearby communities of Fletcher’s Land and Allman Town.
The Planning Director tells JIS News that financing has been a major challenge, and that efforts were being made to solicit support from the private sector.
Mrs. Perkins points out that Minister of Local Government, Portia Simpson-Miller is also “actively seeking support from Cabinet in order to get a dedicated fund that can be used to assist the park”, and that other initiatives could include pursuing overseas assistance from bodies such as Marcus Garvey devotees.
Commenting on plans to ensure the proper maintenance of the park after its redevelopment, she notes that recommendations have been put forward “to establish a Foundation that would have overall responsibility for the continuing development and monitoring of the park”.
The Parks Division of the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) currently has responsibility for the maintenance of the park.
“The National Heroes Park is a gem in Jamaica. This is where our national heroes, our Prime Ministers and distinguished Jamaicans are buried. It is one of the most important places in our history and therefore it needs to be preserved in the best way,” she adds.
National Heroes Park is the largest remaining open space in Kingston. It was formerly named George VI Memorial Park, in memory of George VI, the King of England, who died in 1952. After independence in 1962, the park was renamed National Heroes Park in honour of the country’s national heroes.
The park boasts such historical monuments as the Jamaica War Memorial of 1922; and a Memorial to commemorate the 1865 Morant Bay rebellion.