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Lack of support for old Roman Catholic Church in Grenville

The collapsed tower and the debris in the road in Grenville, St Andrew (Photo Credit: Mikey Hutchinson Facebook Page)

The collapse of the tower of the remains of the old Roman Catholic Church in Grenville, St Andrew has once again raised the issue of lack of action by previous government and especially the Ministers of Tourism to seriously address the preservation of historical buildings and landmarks.

An attempt to raise funds for the restoration of the church was being spearheaded for years by former Member of Parliament in St Andrew Nadia Benjamin who won a seat to sit in Parliament on a ticket of the Grenada United Labour Party (GULP) of late Prime Minister Sir Eric Matthew Gairy.

THE NEW TODAY understands that the 2008-13 Congress government of Tillman Thomas was able to attract the European Union (EU) to provide some financial assistance for the restoration of the old church building.

No details are available on what became of the money that was pledged by the Europeans during the 2013-18 and 2018-22 terms in office of the New National Party (NNP) of Dr. Keith Mitchell.

The Grenada National Trust (GNT) reportedly made no headway over the years in getting the government to give them the legal authority to take charge of some of the important national assets like the Church, and National Museum.

As late as February, the Trust which is headed by St George’s businessman Darryl Brathwaite had written to the current Minister of Tourism, St Andrew South-west Member of Parliament, Lennox “Toes” Andrews on its desire to have five sites placed under its control.

The letter said in part: “The Grenada National Trust is requesting custodial responsibilities for several important cultural landmarks to ensure that they are properly maintained and preserved for future generations. These sites include the National Museum, Market Square, Carib’s Leap, Fort Frederick, Grand Anse Beach, and Duquesne Petroglyph.

“These landmarks are vital economic assets for Grenada, drawing visitors from around the world, and their preservation is crucial to the continued success of the tourism industry.”

“By entrusting custodial responsibilities to the Grenada National Trust, we can ensure that they are properly maintained and preserved, which will help drive economic growth and job creation in the tourism sector.”

“To ensure the success of these sites, it is important to appoint skilled leaders to manage their operations. The Grenada National Trust has a team of experienced professionals who are well-versed in the management and preservation of cultural landmarks, and we are committed to providing ongoing training and support to ensure their success.

THE NEW TODAY has also been able to obtain the copy of a GNT document outlining the role it intends to play in the preservation of Grenada’s heritage buildings.

Following is an edited version of the document:-

The Grenada National Trust was established by Ordinance on April 12, 1967, to preserve places of historical and architectural interest or national beauty.

It is February 21, 2023, almost 56 years since the establishment of the GNT. The GNT is not vested with heritage sites to manage and ensure the protection and preservation of significant cultural and natural heritage sites for the benefit of present and future generations.

As Hon. Minister Lenox Andrews said in his Welcome Message in the 2022-2023 Edition of Lime & Dine, “Grenada is home to an expansive assortment of complimentary breathtaking attractions and extraordinary immersive experiences.” And is “rich in history and heritage”, where tours and itineraries such as Fortifications, Great Houses, Historic ruins, and old Plantations occur. Therefore, it is urgent and essential to have a custodian to safeguard the use of those historical and cultural heritage resources; Minister Andrews described them as breathtaking.

Critical issues in heritage tourism
The benefits of cultural heritage tourism can be far‐reaching. For communities, it can strengthen the local economy, promote resource protection, increase visitor expenditures, generate employment, preserve the unique character of a community, increase community pride and awareness of community resources, increase tax receipts, and stimulate economic growth.

In addition, the cultural heritage tourism described by Hon. Minister Andrews can assist the cultural heritage resources themselves by augmenting revenues in appropriate and sustainable ways; fortifying cultural heritage resources through a more substantial base of cooperation; fostering recognition of the economic contribution of the cultural heritage resources on a parish and community level; and strengthening the preservation, protection, and presentation of the resources.

Grenada needs a custodial presence to advocate for preserving cultural and natural heritage sites by engaging in advocacy activities, such as lobbying for policy change or speaking out on issues that threaten these sites.

Custodial presence is vital because cultural heritage tourism has problems and challenges like typical vacation tourism but with difficulties that are added uniquely to Grenada.

Cultural heritage tourism involves cultural or historical sites that usually need sustainable funding for preservation and maintenance, unlike attractions in the average tourism industry that can be upgraded or rebuilt without a second thought.

Factors the GNT believes contribute to unsuccessful cultural heritage tourism ventures are:

* Heritage managers need to gain more understanding of market expectations related to the experiences of heritage sites.

* Lack of assessment of the tourism potential of a site in terms of its attractiveness to tourists and its carrying capacity.

* Lack of site management strategies.

* Failure to connect the site’s management as a cultural heritage asset and the development and promotion of tourism products.

Those factors usually indicate a general need for knowledge and skill in heritage tourism product management and development and understanding the market and how to market heritage tourism products.

The GNT’s challenge will be how to change a heritage asset into a thriving tourism product that tourists can utilise without sacrificing the integrity of that asset.

“Jab Jab”, an enduring feature of J’ouvert, will be an excellent case study to determine if excessive commercialisation has compromised its cultural and historical integrity.

Of the 10 OECS states, only Grenada National Trust has no vested or managed sites.

The GNT has submitted for 24 places, of which the state owns 20, 2 privately owned, the Presbyterian Church owns one, and 2 with unknown ownership.

This proposal aims for the GNT to be vested with several cultural heritage sites.

To be awarded cultural assets to manage, the Government must also provide for legal or regulatory protection from exploitation and abuse of our cultural heritage assets and the resources to equip and provide personnel to the GNT to respond appropriately to safeguard, inventory, and understand the scope of our cultural heritage, including ways to put them into sustainable use.

The GNT believes cultural, or heritage tourism will bring social change that will accommodate broad segments of the Grenadian population.

New types of employees and entrepreneurs, for example, entertainers, artisans, boat operators, restauranteurs, and others, are directly involved in providing heritage tourists products.

These opportunities create more jobs for women and the young, providing them greater economic independence.

Need for vested sites
Once the Government empowers the GNT by assigning cultural/heritage sites to manage, the GNT can robustly ensure the protection and preservation of important cultural heritage sites for the benefit of the present and future generations and visitors alike.

Obtain legal recognition:
The Grenada National Trust will seek legal recognition as the official custodian of Grenada’s all cultural heritage sites. This recognition will give the organisation the legal authority to manage and protect these sites.

Develop a comprehensive inventory:
The Trust will complete a list of all Grenada cultural heritage sites. This action will help to identify the most significant areas and prioritise them for protection and preservation.

Form partnerships:
The Trust will form partnerships with local communities, government agencies, and other organisations to promote the protection and preservation of cultural heritage sites. These partnerships will help to secure financial and technical resources to support the Trust’s work.

Establish a conservation plan:
The Trust will develop a conservation plan for each cultural heritage site to assess its cultural and historical significance, physical condition, and vulnerability to threats such as natural disasters, human activities, and climate change.

Monitor and evaluate:
The Trust will monitor and assess the effectiveness of its conservation activities regularly. These actions will help identify improvement areas and ensure the Trust achieves its goals of protecting and preserving Grenada’s cultural heritage sites.

Engage in education and outreach:
The Trust will engage in education and outreach activities to raise awareness about the importance of cultural heritage sites and promote their protection and preservation. Engagement will include public lectures, exhibitions, and educational programs for school children.

Advocate for policy changes:
The Trust will advocate for policy changes that support the protection and preservation of cultural heritage sites in Grenada. Engagement includes advocating for stricter laws and regulations to protect heritage sites or increased conservation funding.

Research and documentation:
The National Trust will research the cultural and natural heritage sites to be placed under its care and document their historical and cultural significance. And make it available to all beneficiaries on-demand online, live, and in print.

As a non-profit organisation, the GNT will fundraise to support its activities, including conservation, education, advocacy, and the acquiring/purchasing of properties.

Site selection methodology
Grenada lists proposed sites recognized for their cultural and historical significance. These sites and landmarks comprise Grenada’s historical and cultural heritage. The areas include grand forts, sugar mills and distilleries, buildings, houses, and petroglyphs (rock carvings).

The GNT plans to rank each location based on the quality of experience, accessibility, “wow” factor, popularity, and significance in Grenadian history and culture to determine which sites to offer visitors initially.

In addition, the GNT decision to embark on cultural heritage tourism in any place will emphasise sound commercial tourism reasons first and cultural heritage tourism management reasons second.

Like all tourism forms, the GNT believes heritage tourism development must precede by market study or business plan based on sound commercial tourism reasoning.

Before developing any heritage tourism product, the GNT will ascertain the type of tourists we are attracting or plan to attract. In turn, the cultural tourist will contribute to shaping our heritage tourism products.

Below are five of the 24 heritage sites the GNT requests authority to manage.

* Duquesne Petroglyph

* The Market Square – Town of St. George

* The National Museum

* Fort Frederick

* Carib Leap

* Heritage tourism social and economic Impacts

Jobs directly related to tourism are (1) public transportation, (2) auto transportation (includes car dealers, gas stations, car rental and leasing), (3) lodging, (4) food service, (5) entertainment, (6) general retail, and (7) travel planning.

Other jobs cultural heritage tourism creates are (1) interpreters,( 2) re‐enactors, (3) interpretive planners, (4) museum guides, (5) exhibit designers, (6) museum architects, (7) curators, (8) craftsperson or artists, (9) musicians, (10) actors, (11) arts council staff, (12) preservation staff, (13) architectural historians, and (14) recreational outfitters.

The Grenada National Trust believes it can enhance the quality of residents’ lives by addressing heritage tourism’s economic, social, cultural, and other benefits.

The process will involve more and more members of the population joining the formal economy. Members of the population will be entering not for political or moral reasons. But for their economic contribution to the growth of national income. In turn, Heritage Tourism will catalyse rural or countryside development.

The future course of the GNT
The GNT aims to become a self-financing institution. To get there, the Antigua & Barbuda National Parks Commissioner advised during an OECS Working Group discussion that all National Trust and Other Institutions must be aware of the threats and issues concerning natural disasters and climate change and the vulnerability of the Tourism sector and focus on the responses to these challenges.

Likewise, the putative goal of the GNT is to ensure the protection and preservation of significant cultural and natural heritage sites for the benefit of present and future generations.

The GNT must become the critical custodian of cultural heritage sites, an urgent and essential goal.

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