In fact, over 450 of Jamaica’s national trees — the Blue Mahoe — have been planted over a ribbon of 600 metres.
On Wednesday, June 13, 2018 the Partners, made the drive to Penlyne Castle, St Thomas as 200 more trees were delivered to become part of the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park and World Heritage Site boundary project.
Anna Ward, project officer of the CB Facey Foundation (CBFF), under which JCP is administered, made 1,000 ft trek up Monkey Hill to plant 50 of the 200 trees donated by the Forestry Department.
“It is quite heartening to be a part of marking the National Park’s borders. The Partners’ contribution, over the next three years, is helping the JCDT preserve and protect the lush forests and rich bio-diverse areas within the Blue and John Crow Mountain through this boundary project,” Ward said of the project.
Rugged terrain, lined with berries and wild fruits, give way to clear vistas at the site of the boundary lines and markers at over 5,000 feet where the trek ends.
Marking our Boundaries
In the 10-year quest to attain the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) World Heritage site inscription, the issuing body was very concerned about its delineation.
“One of the concerns that we, and UNESCO had, is that the boundary was not clearly marked. That means the farmers who occupy the land next to us, do not know clearly where the boundaries are. We also want our five rangers, who are patrolling over 100,000 acres, to clearly know where to go,” said Dr Susan Otuokon, executive director of the JCDT and National Park manager.
“Within the three year time-frame, three major areas will be identified and boundaries located on the ground. It is one thing to know the boundary on the map, it is quite different in the field,” explained Dr O.
“In Jamaica, we have an issue with land ownership. Many times the land owners use oral history to mark land borders; you would often hear: ‘My Grandfather says the land finishes at a particular tree’. We also have farmers who will unwittingly establish farms on national park lands. This ribbon of Blue Mahoes will definitively mark where the national park boundaries begin,” Dr O said.
In addition to the placement of marker signs along the boundary, larger signs will be produced and placed at key vantage points so that community members and visitors can clearly identify the Park boundary at a distance. The Blue Mahoe ribbon boundary will also be established in the Irish Town/Newcastle/Holywell area, and the Nanny Town/John’s Hall area.
“This combination project is important as we want the people who are farming to not overstep the boundary and those who are out here to enjoy the national park, know exactly where it is. Some of these areas have been badly deforested due to encroachment and hurricane damage, and so the planting will also help in terms of reforesting and improving the environs in this area,” Dr O said.
The Blue Mahoe grows fairly well at high elevations, and grows quickly. The distinctive shape of the Blue Mahoe leaves and vibrant colour of the long-lasting blooms also make it a perfect ribbon boundary that can be seen from a distance.
The JCDT was among an inaugural batch of grants to environmental charities in September 2017 by the JCP. The other charities are Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), and White River Fish Sanctuary that will receive US$60,000, and US$20,000 respectively, also over a three-year period. JET will use the monies to pay for core administrative and indirect costs and support JET’s vital law and advocacy programme; while WRFS will provide salaries for wardens tasked with patrolling a 370-plus acre ‘Special Fishery Conservation Area’ in a community-led project with local fishermen.