The planned erection of a zipline in St. George’s as a tourist attraction has raised the eyebrows of two heritage organisations on the island.
Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell first announced the erection of a tethered balloon and zipline from the old Governor General residence at Mt. Wheldale to Fort George a year ago during the official opening ceremony of Sandals LaSource Resort.
According to former President of the Willie Redhead Foundation, Norris Mitchell it was brought to his attention that approval has already been given to a Developer to commence work on the zipline.
Mitchell who was a guest on the weekly “Sundays With George Grant” Radio Programme spoke of the development taking place without approval from the Physical Planning Unit (PPU), which is the authority to grant permission for physical development on the island.
“As far as I am aware, the zipline that we are talking about was not approved by the Planning Authority. The Planning Authority was informed that the Developer had an approval without any input… from the authority which deals with planning approval,” he said.
Mitchell who was once associated with the Physical Planning Unit reminded the host of the programme that in 2002 legislation was passed under the caption, “Physical Planning Development Act.”
Chapter 6 of the Act calls for the establishment of a National Cultural and Heritage Advisory Committee (NHAC) to advise PPU on all aspects of heritage, natural and physical.
The former Willie Redhead Foundation President also referred to the pagodas at Grand Etang that were recently refurbished by the People’s Republic of China giving it the Chinese structural flavour.
He claimed that once again this was done without the knowledge and approval of Physical Planning.
“The Planning Authority only knew of the pagodas when it was brought to their attention after it was constructed… But the point is, the Chinese Mission in Grenada would not go contrary to the diplomatic protocol, and go to Grand Etang and put up Chinese Pagodas. So the question is, who gave them authority?” he asked.
Mitchell charged that there is a pattern emerging on the island where things are done, and it is only then that PPU is made aware of it.
He said he would like the authorities to revisit the approval given for the erection of the zipline in the interest of the country’s culture, heritage and the protection of the ambiance of the City of St. George’s.
Another guest on the programme Peter Wallace who is associated with NHAC expressed his reservations over the zipline.
Wallace said he has no problem with ziplines as a tourist attraction, but felt that they are not consistent with world heritage.
He indicated that Grenada is seeking to have the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) regard the historic buildings around Fort George, which are already huge tourist attractions designated as world heritage areas.
“To my mind, the world heritage lifting would be a huge financial asset to the national tourist attraction, much more so than a zipline which could be anywhere, he said.
He indicated that heritage buildings in St. George’s are not protected due to the absence of legislation.
According to Wallace, it is about nine years since a piece of legislation has been floating in Cabinet for ratification which would give protection to the historic buildings in St. George’s, and establish conservation areas so that those buildings have a legal protection.
Wallace addressed the economic impact that the protection of historic buildings can have on the country.
He said that when UNESCO and other funding agencies notice that historic buildings are being protected they provide “free money” which does not have to be repaid.
He added that this could result in job creation, training, and development of expertise, which could be exported, apart from having an influx of visitor arrival.
Wallace believes it might be difficult for the people who solely depend on the politician for their livelihood to speak out on the current state of affairs for fear of losing what is offered to them.
“If somebody doesn’t do it (speak out), that heritage will be lost, and it is an asset in the long term for Grenada,” he said.
A zipline is an aerial runway made up of a cable, which goes 50 miles an hour.