Vreed-en-Hoop boardwalk, bauxite heritage park among proposed regional tourism initiatives

Ready for a transformation? A section of the dilapidated Vreed-en-Hoop Stelling. (Terrence Thompson photo)

The rehabilitation of the Vreed-en-Hoop Stelling along with the construction of a boardwalk, and the establishment of a Bauxite Centennial Regional Heritage Park were two proposals that stood out during the recent Regional Tourism Flagship project consultation.

The consultation was held two Wednesdays ago at the Regency Suites, where representatives from each administrative region were offered an opportunity to interact with experienced stakeholders to improve their proposed projects. The initiative itself was said to have been derived from an idea proposed by Business Minis-ter Dominic Gaskin and seeks to allow regional stakeholders more involvement in the decision making process.

These projects, once discussed, were vetted and reviewed internally in the regions before being brought to the forum to receive the inputs from stakeholders, which would enable them to clarify the way forward for each venture.

While the majority of the regions focused on eco-tourism or adventure tourism, Regions Three and Ten stood out with their respective proposals to rehabilitate the Vreed-en-Hoop Stelling and construct a boardwalk, and to establish a Bauxite Cen-tennial Regional Heritage Park.

Haleem Khan, the Region Three representative, proposed the Vreed-en-Hoop Waterfront Development project, which would see the rehabilitation and beautification of the otherwise dilapidated stelling.

“The waterfront development project is intended to enhance the face of our region. When you travel to Region Three via water taxi what you see is not what region three really is. The stelling is broken down and is basically in shambles with old wood; it isn’t anything to look at. That is the face of our region and we need to develop it. As the president would have alluded to, we need to develop all our waterfronts,” Khan posited.

In addition to the rehabilitation of the stelling, he proposed the construction of an elevated 400-ft boardwalk, which he said would allow a clear view of the capital city and the Demerara River.

“The boardwalk is to develop the way the region looks from the outside. It will be elevated above the stelling so that you can stand there and view Georgetown directly, the Demerara River etc… The intention of the boardwalk is to beautify the face of the region, now what we intend to do is create a shopping centre within the stelling…,” Khan shared.

‘Historical significance’ 

Meanwhile, Victor Wright, of Region Ten, proposed the establishment of the Bauxite Centennial Regional Heritage Park, which he said would highlight the history of bauxite mining in Linden and would include features such as an outdoor industrial museum, a youth innovation centre, a fitness track, and a fine dining area, among others.

The proposed park would be developed on the 34 acres of land around the Centennial Arch, which was unveiled in 2016 by President David Granger to mark 100 years of bauxite mining.

“When we look at this regional park, it is something that gives us the opportunity to look at what has happened in the past; it is part of our heritage and we want people to know that this thing that has impacted Linden, the region and Guyana in such a magnificent way, it has historical significance that should not be forgotten,” Wright shared.

He added that with the assistance of the Ministry of Communities, the region is setting up a design consultancy that would allow it to ensure that it would not be wasting its resources.

Other projects proposed at the consultation session focused mainly on the development of ecotourism/adventure tourism and community-based tourism projects.

Mark Atkinson, of Region One, proposed the Barima-Waini Adventure tour, which, once properly developed, would allow persons to travel to all three sub-districts in the Region in three days, giving guests a chance to experience nature and culture throughout the region. The expected hotspots for the tour include the Eclipse Falls, the remnants of the infamous Jonestown and Hosororo Falls.

Agro-tourism and the wonders of the Essequibo Tri-Lake were featured as part of Region Two’s presentation, which was done by Velma Da Silva, who noted while the goal is to develop the entire region.

“We are passionate about going into agro-tourism; I was just in the US, like two weeks ago, and there was one person who said he wants to have that experience of cutting the coconut off the tree himself and drinking it. We have a lot of coconuts in the Pomeroon, so we are hoping to do things like farm walks for those who have never visited a coconut estate,” she added.

Carlotta de Jesus highlighted St. Cuthbert’s Mission, the Kingston Seawall and the many historical sites as hotspots in Region Four, before moving to focus on the village of Victoria on the East Coast of Demerara.

The village, she noted, was the first village to be brought by the previously enslaved Africans and with some rehabilitative work to some historical structures within, it can be the basis for the Victoria Heritage Trail Tours.

Region Five proposed the Upper Mahaicony tours, with the indigenous village of Moraikobai being the main destination, while Region 6 highlighted Orella, Siparuta and Baracara as its tour destinations.

Meanwhile, Regional Chairman of Region Seven Gordon Bradford marketed the region as an ideal yachting destination. He noted too that apart from that, the region is keen on showcasing the rest of its beauty through opportunities for both eco-tourism and adventure tourism.

Similar sentiments were shared by Gavin Gounga of Region Eight, who spoke highly of the richness that exists with the region before jumping right into his presentation of the Potaro River Experience.

“You can go from Mahdia to a point along the Potaro that is known as Garraway’s Trail, where there is suspension bridge that is hanging there since 1938, approximately 85 years old. It is known as the Denham Suspension Bridge…You can also go through the river experience to Kaieteur via the Amatuk, Waratuk up to where we have lodge up to Kaieteur,” he explained.

Also presenting was Candace Phillips, who noted that eco-tourism and community-based tourism are nothing new to Region Nine. With this being the case, Phillips explained that their focus would be more on strengthening the tourism clusters that already exist, with emphasis on the links between conservation and tourism.

Notwithstanding, she said the region would be looking to change the perception that the town of Lethem is just a transit hub, while also reaching out and building more in the South Rupununi, which has characteristic that contrast with those of the North Rupununi.

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