A camping season tradition for generations of Boaz Island families will be no more, with the closure of Messina House in Dockyard.
Bermuda Real was contacted several months ago, in the lead up to the 2019 camping season, by area residents, who claimed the west end facility was shut down with no official announcement by the Government of the closure.
When contacted, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Community Affairs stressed that the decision to shut down Messina House was taken strictly on a financial basis.
As it turns out, Messina House cost taxpayers “some $260,000 a year to rent from Wedco” to operate, while the revenue generated an average of only $6,000 a year in camping fees”.
“The Government is very keen on the importance of ensuring that the taxpayers’ dollars are managed in a prudent manner,” the spokesperson said.
“Messina House proved a financial challenge, considering that the facility was in poor condition and cost some $260,000 a year to rent from Wedco and operate, when only being used on average 100 days a year.
“The revenue generated was an average of $6,000 a year in camping fees. This was not cost effective and as there are four other Government owned camping facilities available a decision was made to close the facility.”
Over the years, she said: “The property was rented from Wedco and made available to individuals and groups for recreational and camping purposes for a licence fee.”
The decision was taken to do a soft closure in April because Messina House was ‘so under-utilised’, during the past five years or more, with the exception of the period leading up to the America’s Cup, she added.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Department of Youth and Sports, said the decision making process, ultimately, came down to a choice for the Government to either “cut” Messina House funding, or cut other programmes, like the after school programmes.
On that note, the Ministry spokeswoman said: “The Ministry of Labour, Community Affairs and Sports, through the Department of Youth and Sports is keen to ensure that it supports programmes and activities are accessible to all.”
She noted that the Department “provides oversight and management of community centres around the island to provide opportunities for learning and development and social engagement”.
“Regarding Messina House, the Ministry clarified that the West End Development Corporation owns this property,” she added.
The bottom line, according to the Department of Youth and Sports was that the Department “wouldn’t continue to sacrifice our children for a building in such bad shape”.
When word first surfaced that Messina House would be closed, one area resident wrote to then Minister Zane DeSilva demanding “to know the reason for our only on-land camping site closure”.
She noted that the Department of Youth and Sports has four island camp sites – Darrell’s Island, Ports Island, Paget Island and more recently, White’s Island.
With “three island camp sites in the sound”, she asked: “If there are to be any closures for budget cuts, maybe one should look at one of these sites instead.”
She also noted that “Darrell’s Island has 15 camp sites, while Ports Island and White’s Island have one”.
- Feature Photo Courtesy of Shawnette Somner, other photos – Bermuda Government