SAVANNA-LA-MAR, Westmoreland — THE Savanna-la-Mar Chamber of Commerce and Industry says it want to partner with Government in transforming the downtown area of the seaport town into a major tourism development.
"We would like to welcome tourists to our town. We are just about the only town in Jamaica that has a seaport and are not using it, so that speaks volumes to the fact that we are not doing enough," said prominent Savanna-la-Mar businessman Patrick Campbell.
Such a move, he argued, would further improve the economic development of the town.
"I would like to appeal to the honourable prime minister, the tourism minister, and our MP (Roger Clarke) to take a closer look at downtown, Savanna-la-Mar because this can really attract a lot of money to the economy of Sav," Campbell urged.
The Chamber is proposing that the old fort and the site of the ruins of a sugar house, situated close to the waterfront in the Westmoreland capital, play a pivotal role in the development.
As part of the development, the chamber said, a craft market should be constructed where a sugar house was once located.
It was also suggested that the site of the old fort in the downtown area be renovated to serve as a marina, where vessels can be refuelled.
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Roger Clarke, who is also MP for Central Westmoreland, told the Observer West that he would support such a development, if it is feasible.
"Providing it can work I would not have any problem to work hand in hand with them," Clarke said.
And Mayor of Savanna-la-Mar Bertel Moore has also given the proposal his blessings.
"I am 150 per cent behind it," said Moore, who had long indicated that he would support such a venture.
Meanwhile, an upbeat Campbell is insisting that the authorities move with alacrity to capitalise on the opportunity.
He argued that the town is blessed with a number of historical sites, including The Mannings School, the second oldest high school in Jamaica, the Frome Sugar Factory and the site of the old fort.
"We can have horse-drawn carriages taking the tourists up town for a ride. We have the widest streets in Jamaica. They can take them (cruise visitors) uptown and take them back downtown. There is so much to be done down here..." Campbell told the Observer West.
However, businessman Delroy Mullings, a director of the Chamber, expressed that a number of concerns would have to be addressed if the proposal is to become a reality.
Mullings' main concern is the unsanitary condition of the Savanna-la-Mar market, which he pointed out, was in desperate need of attention.
"We need a lot of improvement to the market. When you have the condition of the market like this it distracts people from coming here to spend money. It is an eyesore," he explained.
Additionally, the members of the chamber are calling for a general spruce up of the downtown area of Savanna-la-Mar.
"I was appalled at what I am seeing on the streets and so the effort that the chamber is now making to bring some attention to downtown is something that is woefully in need. Downtown Savanna-la-Mar requires serious attention," he stressed.
And Sonia Brooks, a business operator has articulated the need for the erection of a transportation centre in the downtown area, as well as a police post, which she said, would bolster police presence in the shopping community.