Last week we agreed that accessibility and service ought to be the main features of the new Castries and that green open spaces are to feature prominently in the new design. To achieve this, the city needs to be expanded north, east and south. Last week we dealt with the accessibility and suggested the opening of new tunnels at Morne Dudon (upper Micoud Street), at upper Bridge Street to Cul-de-Sac and via Balata/Cacao/Girard to Cul-de-Sac east. We proposed amajor ring road along the city’s eastern and southern boundaries from the new envisaged botanic gardens commencing from La Clery through La Pansee along the contour through lower Morne Dudon to Lastic Hill then west by an overhead pass through to Marchand Road, Pavee and lower Morne Road to La Toc.
We continue this week with a plan to replace the excuse called George the Fifth Park, also known as The Gardens. This space has been bastardized by the large concrete basin at its north-eastern end dug by nameless foreign engineers. It’s time to convert the insult into an advantage to better serve the new city. First, The Gardens should be fully opened to traffic by widening the link road which runs through it from Chaussee Road to Conway. Second, a properly designed three-storey bus terminal and vendors’ arcade should be erected for commuters arriving in the city from the north and north-east of the island. Third, a second bus terminal of similar design ought to be constructed in the vicinity of the present Vieux Fort bus stand at Foux-a-Chaud. This is to serve commuters arriving and departing from the south, east and west. Fourth, a multi-storey car park should be constructed near the southern bus terminal. Fifth, regular tram commute between these two terminals is highly recommended. These tram routes ought also to connect commuters from the car park at Conway as well as the proposed new car park, at the junction of Micoud Street extension near the Morne Dudon tunnel and the one near the Vieux Fort bus terminal. These trams should connect commuters to the city centre as well as the two bus terminals.
Experienced government planners ought to be authorized to dialogue with the Devaux family for the sale and/or donation of the lands beyond the Folk Research Centre to La Pansee and La Clery. These lands should be transformed to new and better botanic gardens. The Devaux family made a generous gift in arts and culture to the island at independence in 1979. That family continues to show an interest in all things Saint Lucian. It has helped more families rise from poverty than we shall ever know. The Devaux family can trace its French ancestry and Saint Lucian roots back many generations and there is a book on the family that may still be available on-island.
The new botanic gardens should be designed to accommodate a mini zoo, a three-acre museum plot as well as a five-acre herbal garden of rare medicinal plants. It would also be another gift of immeasurable value if the head of the Devaux family would agree to sit with George Theophilus, Michael Chastanet, Mrs. Charmain Gardiner, Mrs. Joyce Destang and Mrs. Karolin Troubetzkoy to help source funds for the new gardens and bus terminals, as well as for the new cultural centre. A Castries Trust Fund designed by those six worthies ought to ensure the implementation of the vision of the futuristic Castries.
Other green areas could be developed on both sides of the Castries River. It is anticipated that that river will be canalized from upper Waterworks Road to its outlet at Foux-a-Chaud and covered to form a main road serving commuters in and around the city. George Charles Boulevard and Marchand should be rebuilt with modern condominiums and a replica of ‘le petit Napoleon’ (the name given to the first elected leader of Saint Lucia by his early admirers) be placed at the centre of the new George Charles Avenue looking towards the city centre.
We now turn to the best individuals to plan, design and implement the dream of the new Castries. I recommend Neville Skeete, Paul Hippolyte, Calixte George and John Peters as my team leaders. I then add Ignatius Jean (new botanic gardens), Hilary Beausoleil and Alexis Felix (architectural designs, bus terminals, cultural centre design etc), plus Mrs. King-Joseph and Cromwell Goodridge (tunnel engineering, new roads and street extensions, including the new ring road etc.). Add two experienced female sociologists to the team for a new perspective. Finally, pray earnestly that the thrust towards indigenization of this vision of the new Castries project is not lost on this or any future implementing agency.
In the design of the new Castries, commuting within the city ought to be a breeze. Vehicular traffic ought to be discouraged as much as possible. Mini-van owners and drivers should be encouraged to drop off and pick up commuters at the bus terminals and wait there for new commuters. Parking on the streets of the city should give priority to the physically challenged and senior citizens. Special number plates issued by the transport board should help identify such persons.
We now turn to an aspect of the vision of the new city that focuses on decaying public and privately-owned buildings in the city. This eyesore does no-one any good. It’s a long neglect waiting to be put to economic use in order to better serve a growing population.
In conclusion it is recommended that a watchful eye be kept on the hillsides surrounding Castries as these need as much attention as the city centre. Much of the wastewater that enters the Castries basin originates from the surrounding hills. The unplanned and growing congestion needs to be regulated and brought under planning control. There is also room to create open green spaces on these hillsides before it’s too late.