Highway construction has Melrose Yam Park vendors on edge

March 22, 2021

Vendors at the Melrose Yam Park in Manchester are fearful that the construction of the Williamsfield to May Pen leg of Highway 2000 could threaten their livelihood.

Shelly McLean, a vendor at the park for the past 20 years, says operators who are already reeling from slow sales due to the COVID-19 pandemic, may suffer even greater economic fallout when the highway is completed.

"We don't know what is going to happen to our business...Since COVID it has been very slow. When the highway come we know that we won't get any sale. So I don't know what we going to do," McLean said.

Third phase

Major construction work is in progress for the third phase of the Highway 2000 project, which is a 28-kilometre stretch from the Rio Minho Bridge in Clarendon to Williamsfield. Errol Mortley, environmental manager at the National Road Operating and Constructing Company (NROCC), which is in charge of the project, said that the yam park will not be accessible by persons heading towards Mandeville when the highway is constructed. This is because there will be a median that would prevent crossing over into the facility from the westbound lanes.

"If you are going towards Mandeville, you wouldn't be able to cross and go to the current site," he said, adding that another eight stalls would be built on the westbound side to accommodate some of the vendors.

This declaration from NROCC has sparked concerns among vendors at the popular roasted yam-and-saltfish spot.

"We don't want some on the right and some on the left, we want to be in one location. Our customers won't find us if some are on the left and some are on the right," McLean said.

Bar operator Carol Rose told THE STAR that relocating some of the vendors would not be in their best interest, as their products and services appeal mainly to persons who live outside of Manchester.

Won't trouble this side

"From my understanding, they won't trouble this side. But a median will be put in the road, so those travelling from the east won't access this side and those travelling this end won't access the new side... . But country people nuh really eat roast yam. The people coming from the east want their yam, so most of our sales come from that side," Rose said.

The bar operator said that not only will the current proposal impact sale, but it will also result in increased transportation cost.

"Our proposal is that we stay here. Give us a road that exits from the highway and enters onto the highway. If not, how we a guh carry we goods? To go all the way up and come back down, taxis are going to charge more, and the tunnel they say they are going to make for us to walk through may not be safe with how things are now," Rose said.

Her fear is that the splitting of the yam park could result in untold hardship for business persons who are already struggling.

"Since the pandemic it has been so bad. It's now after 3 p.m. and I don't sell $2,000 from morning. When the highway comes its going to be worst and this is my job. I don't know another job. I have been here 10 years," Rose said.

However, Glenford Tracey, who told THE STAR that he has been eating at the yam park since its inception, believes the development will not hinder the livelihood of the vendors as much as they think.

"The business will share between the two highways ... the number of vehicles that will traverse both (sections of the) highway will be adequate for all the vendors," Tracey said.

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