Belair Spa officially opens to customers
After more than a decade of anticipation and the exit of at least two Parliamentary Representatives, the much used Belair Spa has been opened with all its economic potential.
A final injection of funds from the coffers of the National Lotteries Authority (NLA) enabled completion of the project which was opened on December 21.
“We see at work here succession, and succession planning said former Parliamentary Representative, Cecil Mckie when he spoke at the opening ceremony.
“Today we see the completion of a decade of intense planning,” he added.
Mckie told the small gathering that when he was elected as Parliamentary Representative of West St George in 2010, topping his list of things to be done “was the Spa project.”
He said the project was also on the to-do list of former constituency representative Mike Browne, but “I was determined to get this project advanced to the point of commencement or completion.”
The first step was to conceptualise what the residents wanted to see at the Spa, what residents and persons from other parts of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), would do at the Spa, and after identifying these components a plan was drafted.
A number of entities contributed over time in development of the Spa and its surrounding; among them, the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, the Cenral Water and Sewerage Authority (CWSA), and the West St. George Environmental Group.
But more funding was needed to make the make the project a reality and this was secured from the NLA.
Chairman Murray Bullock, speaking of the planning timeframe of the project, said “if indeed this project was thought of way back then it has a longer gestation period than an elephant.”
Bullock said that Mckie “was very adamant and very committed to the project,” and that it was during Mckie’s time in office that the project really gained momentum. He applauded King for taking over the mantle and seeing the project through to fruition.
According to the NLA chairman, the project was initially projected to cost about EC$350,000.00, “but we have exceeded that by far.”
He pointed out that the aim was to use a different approach and make it an income-generating project, but changes had to be made. The NLA is assisting with the finances for a site manager as well as security, and a booth for the selling of lottery tickets has been constructed. All of that added to the final cost of the project, Bullock outlined. The income generated from sale of lottery tickets would go towards the upkeep of the facility.
Bullock told the gathering that “this project is part of the ULP government’s thrust in strengthening and developing communities across our nation. We at the National Lottery were quite happy to implement this project at the direction of the Prime Minister.”
The current Parliamentary Representative, Curtis King also speaking at the ceremony gave his commitment towards the continued development of the Spa stating: “I also recognise that development is a process.”
He said the opening of the Spa is part of the vision the Unity Labour Party has for West St. George, and proceeded to outline the history of the s project and the many attempts to tap into its economic potential.
“The Spa has always been an interesting case. Everyone has always stated that it is a great community resource, especially around election time you will hear politicians coming and identifying the great potential that the spa has towards generating an income,” King stated.
Those politicians would say that as soon as “I get into office we are going to bottle the water from the spa. So over time it became a gimmick.”
King recounted that in the 1970s attempts were made to exploit the economic resources of the spa and provide management and upkeep of the facility but the formulation did not include an input from the people.
“As such it ended up being a failed economic activity…basically a bath. Since then it has been on the agenda of all the potential candidates for West St. George,” King said.
It was in 2002 that the spa project took a new turn when the then Parliamentary Representative Mike Browne, initiated consultations through the newly constituted West St. George Constituency Council which organised a three day consultation at the Dauphne Community Centre.
However, the project was in abeyance for the next eight to ten years.
“It was when the honourable Ces Mckie came into office in 2010 that the process started again. We have to give Ces the credit for leading the process in conceptualising and designing this project,” King pointed out.
“ More than that, identifying and securing that source of funding,” which also included an input from central government.
When he took to the podium, prime minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves spoke of the financial returns of the NLA moving from a EC$10 million operation to having annual returns of around EC$80 million and becoming a major player in the socio-economic development of SVG.
He was high in praise for the spa project and cautioned about its proper use which should be towards the development of the community, and the country on a whole.