Rodney Bay, Gros Islet, Wednesday October 6, 2021:– Commuters aware of its history are becoming increasingly concerned about the future of a historic monument along the Rodney Bay section of the Gros Islet Highway than can be destroyed soon unless urgent action is taken to save and preserve it.
The monument is the two stone pillars marking the old entry to the then US Naval Air Base in Gros Islet, built to provide defenses for the USA, UK and their allies during World War 11.
The area was ceded to President Roosevelt by Prime Minister Churchill, alongside the Beane Field base in Vieux Fort here, as part of a regional deal that saw construction of air and naval bases for the US on British West Indian islands, in exchange for American battleships.
The pillars’ foundations were shaken by alterations to the area during a pre-election highway realignment project that has created post-election havoc for drivers and commuters.
The incomplete election project, which also involved construction of roundabouts, has resulted almost a daily post-election nightmare along related sections of the highway.
Commuters aware of their history openly wonder what will become of the pillars, while others simply wonder what a “US naval air base” is…
Saint Lucia News Online (SLNO) reached-out to an established city engineer, who said: “The pillars never had any owner, per se, because they never needed care; but they come under the purview of whichever government department is in charge of roads and highways.”
“But,” he continued, “since it can be considered a historic monument, it should be the St. Lucia National Trust’s responsibility to look after it now…”
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the engineer told SLNO:
“Realistically, it’s the National Trust sees about preserving monuments and artifacts, but I guess it’s experience with the last government over the dolphin parka project and the old jail in Castries might be making them a bit more careful now…”
The Trust took the previous administration to court to try to save the old prison, but hasn’t yet stated a position on the threatened pillars.
According to the architect, “If it is allowed to remain like it is now, the pillars will eventually crumble.
“But it all depends on the new government’s plans for the future of the highway construction project it inherited and the contracts entered into, which might have included plans to either keep or do away with the pillars…”
Those interested in preserving the history of the area, including older members of the Trust, say it’s worth preserving the historic pillars and linking them with other areas like “The Ramp” (where the Rodney Bay police station is now based).
So, will the pillars go, or stay?
There are those who view them — alongside Rodney Bay and the old Beane Field and Vigie Airports — within the context of colonial structures associated with aspects of the island’s history and thus worth saving.
But there are also those who’ve already started a quiet campaign to revisit Admiral Rodney’s role in Saint Lucia’s history, with a view to placing Rodney Bay in its proper historical context.
According to the engineer, “After all, what Admiral Rodney did here and the role of the US naval and air bases at Rodney Bay and other parts of the island helped entrench and preserve colonialism here for centuries…”
The Trust continues to look-on like everyone else, but the longer the pillars remain as is, the louder will be the calls for it to take a position on the pillars, acting early before it’s too late.
The engineer said, “You don’t want a situation where the Trust moves too late, so it might be better to find out what’s the situation and then take whatever actions it sees necessary to preserve the monument…
“I think they should be preserved because, like it nor not, they’re part of our history – and we can’t change that!”