Basseterre, St. Kitts, (SKNIS)—After years of neglect and poor maintenance of existing structures, such as lack of a paved road and drainage, several dilapidated shacks on site and other buildings in disrepair, no designated parking area for taxis and private vehicles, Black Rocks in Belle Vue Village is set to receive a face lift, which will see the tourist venue transformed into a national heritage site.
Upon the recommendation of the Ministry of Tourism, under the leadership of the Honourable Lindsay Grant, a proposal was submitted and accepted by the Cabinet of the Government of National Unity, for the substantial upgrade of Black Rocks, given its historical, educational and touristic value.
According to Minister Grant “there is a need for urgent intervention to raise the standard of the product so that it offers a much improved and more comfortable vendor and visitor experience, befitting one of our popular and premier natural tourist attractions.”
It has been proposed that planning and implementation of the project be led by the White Gate Development Corporation with support from the Ministry of Tourism.
This renewed thrust in Community-based Tourism at Black Rocks is expected to benefit the residents of Belle Vue and its surrounding environs, in particular, the Saddlers and Tabernacle communities. This in turn will bring socio-economic development to the area including promoting sustainable livelihoods for the residents in the nearby communities; enhancing the tourism product and adding value to the tourist experience; being a catalyst for a higher standard of community development at Belle Vue and surrounding areas; working to develop a formal Master Plan for Black Rocks with design considerations for land conservation, historic and cultural precedence; and capitalizing on the combined efforts and resources of partners and stakeholders from the public and private sectors to execute the Master Plan and realize outcomes that are consistent with their vision of a sustainable tourism programme.
The Black Rocks project will be implemented in two phases, with phase one beginning around the tail end of the 2015-2016 cruise season (May-August). This phase will include retail space which will see ten chattel-house-style wooden booths on joists constructed to replace the existing dilapidated structures at Black Rocks. To minimize disruptions to vendors’ livelihoods, booths will be built on the existing field while vendors continue to use existing structures. Once construction is completed, the shacks will be demolished, removed from the site and replaced by the newly built booths. Also, upgrades will be completed to infrastructure and landscaping; the existing dirt road at Black Rocks will be paved (concrete); several Royal Palms will be planted along the access road at the site; and drainage will be improved to prevent further soil loss and degradation of the cliff side. Additionally, entrance and parking will be enhanced: A recessed stone clad concrete one-way entry feature will be constructed to signal the arrival at Black Rocks. This feature will be lit with solar-powered fixtures for easy identification at night time. Adequate parking and proper drainage will also be provided at the venue.
Phase Two of the project will include improvements to the Scenic Railway corridor at Belle Vue to capture the rich heritage of the Sugar Belt of St. Kitts. Some of these characteristics will include an equipment museum, which will showcase locomotives, cranes, tractors and other equipment/implements that formed part of the engine of the centuries-old sugar industry; a sugar cane reserve of approximately 0.5 acre is to be located in the background of the equipment museum. Other structures to be constructed along the Scenic Railway corridor include a restaurant and bar, farmers’ market, craft vending and mini Amphitheatre, which will be designed to tell the story of the island’s economic transition from sugar cane cultivation to tourism development. A performance stage will be erected to accommodate live performances and several concrete/wooden benches will be placed to offer space for relaxation. Two viewing platforms will be constructed at strategic locations to allow visitors to safely capture images of the majestic volcanic rock outcrops in the ocean and a wooden walkway will also be constructed to provide safe access down to the coastline. The site is also expected to have a mini sport field for hosting community soft ball cricket, mini football games and similar traditional events.
Residents living in the communities surrounding Black Rocks are excited about the project and can’t wait for it to start. One resident of the community, Lida Lake, shared her joy.
“The partnership between White Gate Development Board and the Government to upgrade the Black Rocks Pasture tourist site and by extension the village of Belle Vue is an indication that these two entities take the people of the area and tourism product offered by the village very seriously. The people of Belle Vue and vendors who operate here view this very positively as it is a delivered promise by the Government and more importantly the Parliamentary Representative Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris. As residents, we appreciate the roads, drains, and fences constructed as a part of this project which brings uniformity, completeness and dignity to the people of the village and surrounding communities,” said Ms. Lake.