By: Michael Siva, CERN correspondent, Jamaica.
Many times, parks and protected areas find themselves at odds with segments of the surrounding community, and that often proves to be their downfall. That’s why the Blue Mountains and John Crow Mountains National Park places much emphasis on interaction with the community. When the Park was set up at the turn of the decade, it established Local Advisory Committees (LAC) in several outlying communities. This was special, because succeeding governments and political parties generally forgot such communities. One such LAC was established at Mill Bank, a small village in the Rio Grande Valley with a population of just over 100 people.
Susan Otuokan of the Jamaican Conservation and Development Trust (JCDT) said that the Park made and early commitment to work with the community. “In order to protect and conserve our natural resources, you need to pay attention to the socio-economic needs of the communities using those natural resources. Whether they use them for wood, for charcoal, for lumber, etc. This was very clear to the management of the park and to the Jamaican Conservation and Development Trust, now responsible on behalf of government for managing the park.”
Mill Bank had an old swinging bridge that fell into to disrepair. This was significant from a socio-economic point of view, because a functional bridge allows farmers from Mill Bank access to available farm lands on the other side of the Rio Grande.
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