The Fort George Historical Site in St James re-opened to the public on January 3 after being officially closed for some weeks because there was no water available.
On December 24, tour operator Stephen Broadbridge complained on his Facebook page, “It is a month Fort George Historical Site has been without water. Imagine the un-flushed toilets and the smell. The security booth is empty. No security guard on duty. This is our best historical site? Really? Where is the Ministry of Tourism? Is this ok with everyone? MORE MEDIOCRITY! WHAT A NATIONAL EMBARRASSMENT!”
Broadbridge, who is the vice president of the TT Incoming Tour Operators Association, said in a January 4 telephone interview that Fort George is a common stop on tour itineraries.
His Facebook post showed photos of the jail cell in the 19th-century structure locked and being used to store maintenance equipment. The jail cell is a significant attraction at the site, along with several cannon and some artefacts in the main building.
Although Broadbridge called for the Ministry of Tourism to respond, the site falls under the aegis of the Forestry Division of the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries. Conservator of Forests Courtenay Park, reached by telephone on January 3, declined to comment and referred Newsday to the corporate communications unit of the Agriculture Ministry. There was no answer to phone calls to the unit.
Austin Fido, a writer who lives in St Ann’s, visited the site before Christmas with visitors to Trinidad. Fido said he was unsurprised there had been no water, because he himself had been experiencing water supply problems, along with the rest of the country.
The fort remains a well-kept heritage site, he said.
Fido said he had been a regular visitor to the fort for a few years and had never known the jail to be open.
On January 3, when Newsday visited the fort at midday, a Delta Security Services guard was at the fort, as was a Forestry Division worker. Both declined to comment for this article.
The bathrooms were clean, there was water in the pipes and two large water tanks installed by the driveway. A person familiar with the site said there was no piped water on the compound; water is brought in by truck and service is sometimes irregular.
As for the jail, another person who knows Fort George well confirmed it had not been open for years, adding, “It would be good if they open back the jail. That is what people want to see most. It is mostly African history, shackles and things. It’s a part of history.”
Martiniquan tourists Judith Gregory and her son, daughter and boyfriend were among the few visitors there on the overcast day.
“It’s very good,” she said in halting English. “I find it’s beautiful. When you do a tour of the island, if you stand here you can see a lot of things.”
A photographer accompanied them. The fort offers a panoramic view of the city and the Gulf of Paria; Gregory’s daughter pointed out the cruise ship on which they were passengers, docked at the Cruise Ship Complex. From the fort it looked the size of a toy, afloat on cool blue water.