Fort Purcell a major historical landmark

The plan to turn Fort Purcell into a heritage park is excellent news in a time when many of the territory’s historical landmarks are sadly neglected.

Until last month, the extensive remains of the fortification were almost invisible from the nearby road, and visitors had to bushwhack through thick brush to reach the site. On April 30, a diverse group of more than 50 community members worked to change that, clearing away trees and bushes.

The ruins, which are between Pockwood Pond and Havers, are fascinating. Long known as “The Dungeon,” the structure was the largest fort ever constructed on Tortola. Its remains include hundreds of feet of walls and a room with carvings probably made about 200 years ago by British soldiers.

In spite of this rich history, many of the students and adults who volunteered last month had never seen the fort before — and a few had never even heard of it.

We are particularly encouraged that the preservation effort is a team undertaking. Currently, collaborators include the landowners, H. Lavity Stoutt Community College, the Governor’s Office, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour and the National Parks Trust. At last month’s cleanup, representatives from some of these organisations were joined by students from the Elmore Stoutt High School Environmental Club, the BVI Girl Guide Association, the VI Cadet Corps and others.

We applaud everyone who contributed. The sort of teamwork exhibited last month will be the key to turning the site into a heritage park as soon as possible.

Such a park would greatly benefit Virgin Islands residents and visitors alike.

A successful example of a similar endeavour is the 1780 Lower Estate Sugar Works, a project that was started under the former government and recently completed under the current government. The museum offers interesting exhibits on a rotating basis. And one need only look to neighbouring St. John to see other historic ruins that have been transformed into informative heritage sites.

We hope that efforts to preserve VI heritage will continue to expand. In the coming months, election candidates should clearly and specifically explain their ideas about how to make this happen.

The VI is ripe with history that often has been ignored entirely. Changing this habit will help the establish a stronger sense of its own identity.