Fort Cunningham crucial to Bermuda economy
In recent pages of The Royal Gazette, the Mirrors charity announced another field day at Paget Island, St George’s Parish, with the intention of continuing the restoration of the magnificent and unique Fort Cunningham, much neglected for the past 25 years since archaeological work in the early 1990s.
The fort is one of the military sites of Bermuda’s World Heritage Site, so designated by Unesco, among only 800 others worldwide, so that the Mirrors group is to be commended for their initiative in undertaking work normally the responsibility of the Government.
As noted in the newspaper, Kimberley Jackson, programme manager for Mirrors, said: “We have started discussions with the St George’s Foundation and are looking forward to expanding the partnership for restoring the fort. It makes sense to have all the key partners at the table to develop the long-term restoration plan.”
Michael Weeks, the Minister of Social Development and Sport, stated that the proposed April 7 event was “a great opportunity to simultaneously support the preservation of Bermuda’s heritage and culture and also learn about the incredible history of this historic site. It’s a great event for families to connect and also for young people to gain community service hours”.
The project is being sponsored or assisted by XL Catlin Bermuda, Outward Bound, the National Trust, the National Museum, Keep Bermuda Beautiful and the Government’s Departments of Parks, and Youth, Sports and Recreation. The job is very large and all are to be congratulated, especially the Mirrors group, for the coming efforts to save one of Bermuda’s finest military monuments and the potential outstanding park that is Paget Island.
The philistines among us will doubtless complain about the project, failing to understand the value to our essential tourism economy of such monuments, which, being unique, are one of the main reasons why the discerning visitor wishes to visit Bermuda or any other destination with cultural and heritage treasures.
Most such visitors stay in land-based accommodation, which remains the foundation of the tourism economy, despite the numbers of arrivals by sea. It is the discerning hotel and guesthouse visitor that has the spending power to continue to fund our lifestyle, as they have done for over a century.
Included in such visitors are the British and United States military that, up until the end of the Cold War in 1995, pumped billions into Bermuda, leaving behind monuments like Fort Cunningham that now allow us to make even more money off the military by exploiting such sites for the cultural tourism trade.
In that regard, the publication of a new booklet, Defenses of Bermuda 1612–1995, is to be welcomed as it is a comprehensive but inexpensive summary of the wonders of Bermuda’s military history.
The booklet would not have happened without the passion that American Terry McGovern and his family have had for Bermuda over a generation. Terry was heartened to hear during the recent launch of the volume that the Mirrors group had formed a battalion of volunteers to assault the invasion of Fort Cunningham, and indeed Paget Island, by invasive and destructive trees.
So as the old mariner would say at the start of a long voyage: “Godspeed and following seas” — in this case to Mirrors and everyone who is willing to do their bit to preserve an important aspect of the long and honourable (and vitally economic) military history of this stationary aircraft carrier, as it once was for a period.
•Dr Edward Harris is founding executive director emeritus of the National Museum of Bermuda
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