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Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park

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    Jamaica currently has no sites on the World Heritage List. The Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park was added to Jamaica’s tentative list under the Natural category in 2006 and has been nominated to be considered by UNESCO for inscription on the Wold Heritage List in 2011 – a decision has not been made.

    Stand in the Jamaican capital, Kingston, and the eye is inevitably drawn upward to a ridge of rain-forest-covered mountains that loom some 3,000 feet over the coastal area. This 78,200 hectares expanse of tropical forest is the Blue and John Crow Mountain National Park and represents 4.5% of Jamaica's land surface[1]. The park boasts the highest point in Jamaica – the Blue Mountain Peak at just over 7,000 ft. from which it is possible to see Cuba on a clear day and important watersheds that provide water for half of the island, and many areas of natural beauty and historic importance. The BJCMNP is actually composed of three mountain ranges – the Port Royal, Blue, and John Crow Mountains, divided by the Buff Bay and Rio Grande Valleys on the north side of the ranges[2]. The Blue and John Crow Mountains, two distinctly different regions in geology and climate, hold unique reserves of biological and mineral resources and contain areas of unparalleled natural beauty. There is a high degree of local endemism[3] in the park, which also has one of the highest levels of endemism in the Western Hemisphere, as well as the highest level of biodiversity in Jamaica. The BJCMNP contains the largest continuous tract of closed broad-leaf or natural forest in Jamaica[4]. In the Blue Mountain region, of 240 species of higher plants, 47% are endemic. In the John Crow Mountains, 32% of the 278 species of flowering plants are endemic[1]. The BJCMNP is the last of two known habitats of the Giant Swallowtail Butterfly – the largest butterfly in the Western Hemisphere[4]. The BJCMNP is an important habitat for many Jamaican birds, including all the endemic species such as the endangered Jamaican Blackbird[4].

    The BJCMNP is an area with great potential for recreational and educational activities, including nature tours, hiking, camping, bird watching and heritage tourism. The value of these forests lies in their unique gene pool and the potential for yet untested species, which could be used for pharmaceuticals, ornamental plants, agricultural products and craft items. As a watershed, the area supplies over 40% of the population of Jamaica with domestic water, in addition to water for agricultural, industrial and commercial usage[4]. Despite its steep slopes, the area is used by small subsistence farmers for cultivation of cash crops and also by small and large coffee farmers to produce the highly priced and prestigious Blue Mountain coffee.

    The BJCMNP has developed a Sustainable Tourism Programme for the BJCMNP and its Community Buffer Zone[5] to become Jamaica’s newest destination – focused entirely on experiencing the region’s unique natural and cultural heritage with the local community. The BJCMNP has two main recreation areas within its boundaries: Holywell and Portland Gap and the Blue Mountain Peak Trail[2]


    Managerial Challenges

    Since 1993, the BJCMNP is managed by a non-government organization called the Jamaica Conservation and Development Trust (JCDT). Challenges in managing and developing the site have been identified as follows:
    • A unique challenge of JCDT is to ensure that recreation and tourism activities do not threaten the BJCMNP’s biodiversity, provision of ecosystem services and cultural heritage. A part of their initiative has been to institute a Sustainable Tourism Programme but much work is still neededs[2].
    • Within the BJCMNP buffer zone lays many natural resources. The main economic activities based on these resources are nature tourism, logging (legal and illegal), charcoal production and agriculture. With multiple stakeholders involved – residents of the buffer communities, government agencies and private entities such as tour operators, it is a challenge for the JCDT to manage the conflicting interest of all stakeholders. Economic activities often take precedence over other issues such as preservation and conservation.  Many of these activities, however, have over time contributed to the degradation of the resource bases[2][1].
    • Involvement and education of the local community is another major challenge. Between 1994 and 1996 the park suffered from high turnover in personnel which meant that new staff had to be given time to allow these personal relationships to redevelop. The JCDT lacks a unified vision to inspire the local community and engender their trust hence minimizing illegal activities and unsustainable practices in and around the park buffer zone[4].
    • Funding for educational and public awareness programmes and research is also a challenge. Although the park receives funding from some government agencies and international organization but much of the researchers who have contributed to the Park’s development are from overseas, who have to transported, housed and fed. JCDT still lacks sufficient funding to undergo all the relevant research and development needed.



    [1] UNESCO (2006). Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park - UNESCO World Heritage Centre. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 4 Nov 2013].

    [2] Blue & John Crow Mountains. (2013). Blue & John Crow Mountains National Park. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 9 Nov 2013].

    [4] Dunkley, C. and Barrett, S. (2001). Case study of the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park, Jamaica. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 9 Nov 2013].



    [3] Endemism is an ecological word meaning that a plant or animal lives only in a particular location, such as a specific island, habitat type, nation or other defined zone.

    [5] The boundary of the original forest reserve was retained to serve as the park boundary. Communities adjacent to these boundaries were designated buffer areas. These were the communities in which there was the greatest use and impact on the park’s resources.

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    Comments (3)

    Viewing 3 of 3 comments: view all
    Another really good read. But also here i have some comments or questions.
    although everything makes perfectly sense, and discusses the important points, do you have any references for the managerial issues? Has there been any statements been made by Unesco why there is still no decision? It sounds to me like it could easily belong in the list of natural heritage.
    How is the park interwoven with Jamaican culture? I can imaginbe there are many myths and maybe even tribal belives connected to the park and the mountains. I think there is a lot more to say and half a page is definetly not enough space to give a deserving description of the site.
    Oh and you could consider moving this part, since now its a subsection of port royal (use the "more"->"move page" tab for that). edited 07:21, 12 Nov 2013
    Posted 07:19, 12 Nov 2013
    Thanks for your feedback. The references for challenges have been added. This is also a Mixed Site (Cultural & Natural), for the purpose of this assignment I only focused on the natural aspects. This site was nominated in 2011 and was differed due the managing of the economic activities in the area along with other challenges related to the cultural aspects. You can read more about the cultural aspects and those challenges at
    Posted 14:41, 12 Nov 2013
    I liked your presentation in the class. I think you have a great case to the next part of the course where you will be talking about the challenges of developing nature-based tourism. On one side, managers of the national park are tying to increase revenues coming from the visitation, but on the other hand they have to be very restrictive on the numbers of tourists visiting the site. It is a very tricky situation, but I am very happy to see that they are making quite a progress with the educational facilities and the way people are able to learn from visiting this site.
    Thank you for the interesting presentation!
    Posted 21:04, 12 Nov 2013
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