Gilbert leaves Orange Tree with uncertain future
The once vibrant and populated community of Orange Tree in Llandewey, St Thomas, is on the brink of disappearance. When Hurricane Gilbert washed away the bridge that spanned the Yallahs River, it was the beginning of the end for an area that was not only well-populated but provided vast supplies of food from its massive farm lands.
Everton Morgan was among the throng of residents who left the community after the bridge which connected Orange Tree and Gordon Castle to the main district of Llandewey was washed away.
"It was a well-developed area with fruit trees. All type of trees. It was a very prosperous area, but when the river come down mi affi stay pan one a the side dem because we nuh wah get wash weh," said Morgan who farms in the area.
Orange Tree is now a community with several abandoned houses which are overrun by bushes. Only a few people now live there. Roads that were once traversed by vehicles during heyday are now tracks, some of which are hardly accessible by foot.
"People leave because they don't want to get stuck over here. I believe that if we get back a bridge, the community a guh develop fast," Morgan said.
Tashean Duffus, a 22-year old, who was raised in the community, told The STAR that it was rough growing up in the community. She said while going to school, there was always the fear that the river would overflow its banks and she would not be able to go home.
"I used to dread the rain because as we see it black up, we ready fi go home because we don't want to get stuck on the other side," she said.
Without a proper bridge leading to the community, residents use sticks to create a make-shift structure to allow them to get across the river. However, when The STAR visited the community on Monday, there was no bridge. Out of fear that the massive logs, which form the base of the bridge, will be washed away if the river 'comes down', the residents have decided to wait until the hurricane season passes before they put it up. They now walk through the river to go about their business, and they don't like it.
"More while a swing the young bwoi dem swing pan a line fi go cross and it dangerous. It very dangerous," Morgan said.
Residents want the authorities to construct a bridge in order to give the community a chance to breath again.
"If dem ever build a proper bridge, even if a walk foot bridge, we would jump fi joy because when the river rough, it very risky," Morgan said.
Duffus said: "If the bridge ever build, the people that are gone would have a reason to come back and develop the community, but if it is not done, more people a guh move away."
Stephen Shaw, communication manager at the National Works Agency, said that the issue of a bridge for Orange Tree community is a long-standing one. He said that because of the small number of persons living in the community, it would not be economically feasible to construct one a bridge at this time.