Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Pearnel Charles Jr said the Government is committed to the continued development and maintenance of The Hope Royal Botanical Gardens in St Andrew, as an important part of the nation’s history and heritage.
More popularly called Hope Gardens, the over 200-acre property is an important historical site with buildings and artefacts dating back to the 1800s. It houses some of Jamaica and the Caribbean’s endemic and exotic botanical collections and is the largest public green space in the Kingston Metropolitan Area.
“The rich history of this space must be well known, and today these botanical gardens have even greater significance,” said Charles Jr. “[For] children, this is a safe space and it is very important for us to invest in protecting, nurturing, and upgrading it as a feature of Jamaica.” He added that all citizens have a role to play in its upkeep and development.
The site was part of a large parcel of land granted to English officer, Major Richard Elletson Hope, who helped capture Jamaica from the Spanish in 1655. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Hope was a sugar estate and water from the Hope River was used to turn estate mills. The Hope Aqueduct was built for that purpose. In 1766, Richard Hope arranged for Kingston to be supplied with water from the estate. In the 1840s, the 234 acres of the estate bordering on the Hope River was sold to the city of Kingston, and the city’s water was eventually drawn from this land as part of a publicly owned system.
The Hope Estate land that eventually became Hope Gardens in the late 1870s was a central botanical establishment in the island used as an experiment and teaching station, and was later expanded to become a public park, where several plants, historical structures and trees are currently being preserved. The Gardens were officially renamed the Royal Botanical Gardens when Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II visited Jamaica in 1953.
The property is a preserved site under the Jamaica National Heritage Trust. Over the years, the facility has become a popular site for picnics, exercise, concerts and learning about nature, providing a heaven for people living in the capital city. Hope Gardens is being managed by the Nature Preservation Foundation (NPF), which has responsibility to improve the aesthetics of the facility and the biological content of the Gardens. Recently, the NPF opened the new eastern entrance to the property, which forms part of the development works under way. The project was financed by the Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education Fund.
Charles Jr said the ministry, through its Public Gardens Division, has provided $600 million in subvention to the NPF since it began operations in 2005.
In addition to serving as an attraction, he says that the green space is “an essential repository of endemic plants and animals”, which opens prospects to drive academic research.
Chairman of the NPF, Alfred Thomas, noted that more than one million people visit the Gardens every year to experience calm outside of their busy lives and embrace family bonding.
He said that with the plans to develop the green space, the Foundation is aiming to increase the number of annual visitors to approximately three million.