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IT MATTERS TO MARIA: Heywoods Park now a ‘wilderness’

MARIA BRADSHAW, [email protected]

IT MATTERS TO MARIA: Heywoods Park now a ‘wilderness’

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A RESIDENT OF Heywoods Park, St Peter, wants to know who is responsible for the upkeep of green spaces designated “not for construction” in housing developments.

The question has arisen because people who live in the area have not been contributing to maintaining the park and the National Conservation Commission (NCC) has not been able to assist, even when payment is provided.

The resident explained that back in 2005 the park was opened at a ceremony attended by constituency representative and then prime minister Owen Arthur, who also funded benches and plants for the facility through the St Peter Development Fund.

For the next two years the NCC undertook the landscaping of the park on a monthly basis but all of this ceased in 2008 when the Government changed.

“We were told by the NCC that it was not their responsibility because it was privately owned and that we should pay to get it done,” the resident explained.

After several months of discussions with the NCC the commission arranged to debush the park for just over $1 000. However, even though the money was paid through the Heywood Property Owners Association the NCC informed them that they could not provide the service because of a lack of equipment. Eventually the money was refunded.

With just under $2 000 on the account, the association decided to seek a private company to carry out the work, especially after it was discovered that the bank was charging $15 monthly on the account.

“We called several companies and we received quotes of between $7 000 and $10 000 to have the park cleaned,” the resident said, forcing them to turn to the St Peter Constituency Council for assistance.

The council provided them a company which cleaned the park last November for close to $2 000 – all of the funds on the account of the association, which is now defunct.

With the account also closed the resident said the once tranquil park is overgrown with bushes and trees and the benches and plants are no longer visible.

Dorothy Shepherd, one of three residents who were also former committee members who worked tirelessly to have the park maintained, admitted that she felt helpless in the situation.

She said it had become extremely difficult to get the close to 300 householders to contribute the required $120 each to the association in order to maintain the park.

“This park belongs to the residents,” she said.

“We have no association and we have no money. Where the park is located was a swamp – the grass grows there very quickly. There is no one for us to go to. Everybody we go to says the same thing: ‘You people can afford to clean it yourselves’.

“To be truthful, I put a lot of blame on the residents because if they had paid their fees we would not be in this situation.”

Pointing out that the area was home primarily to returning nationals from England, the United States and Canada, Shepherd recalled that in July 2014 the association summoned a meeting of residents and she personally walked from house to house and delivered over 100 invitations.

“Only six people attended, including two of us who were on the committee. We had a police officer, someone from public health and someone from the NCC. You would imagine that having lived in England, Canada and America where places are kept clean and there are associations like HOAs (homeowners association) that they would want to put some money into making their surroundings better. We have a problem here and it should never be like that.”

She lamented that the park had now become a place where unsavoury characters gathered to engage in illegal activities.

Calling it a systematic problem, another resident asked: “If the town planning requirement is that the developer has got to leave a green space that is not sufficient; there has to be some mechanism for the maintenance of that green space. The only fair way would be to put some levy on the persons in those developments that it can go towards NCC and NCC maintain it.”

Similar problems have been experienced at Cane Garden in St Thomas, whose constituency representative Cynthia Forde said she believed the NCC should be responsible for maintaining such parks.

Over at West Terrace, St James, a resident reported that the NCC maintained their neighbourhood park.

This column was unable to reach general manager of the NCC, Keith Neblett, because he is on holiday.