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Michael Weeks

Parks, Enhanced

Movie nights. New playgrounds. New bathrooms. Big Events. Spray Park. Minister Michael Weeks announced that Bermuda's parks will be improved in 2013.

Minister Weeks:

Bermuda has some of the most beautiful National Parks in the world….and as such; we will be looking to make greater use of them in 2013.

These parks offer great scenery as well as a place for locals to get away from their hectic schedules for rest…..recreation….and rejuvenation.

Adding to the enjoyment of the Parks experience previously mentioned, we will be hosting more family oriented activities such as:

 Movie Nights
 Concerts
 A Christmas Craft Market; and,
 Plant Displays

I would like to note that these activities will be free to the public….and will offer the community a safe and economically viable option to spend time with family away from home in the evenings.

The movie series will run two weekends per month starting in May and running to September in a variety of locations such as the Arboretum, the Bermuda Botanical Gardens and Fort St. Catherine.

Another key initiative that my Ministry will be progressing in 2013 – and in fact is already underway – is the upgrading of the restroom facilities.

The aim is to ensure total enjoyment of our National Parks by locals and visitors alike.

Not only will upgrades be undertaken to the existing facilities, but new facilities will be built in the areas that have been identified…..and some of these new facilities will be constructed utilizing small contractors – thereby providing work for the smaller contractors in our efforts to stimulate job creation.

The Department of Parks will also continue with their renovations to the playgrounds in the National Parks system.

You may recall I re-opened the Mullet Bay Playground a few weeks back. This playground is now equipped with new equipment for all of the children to enjoy.

The next playground on the list is the Parsons Road Playground which will be done in a two phased upgrade approach.

The First phase will see a new Spray Park installed that will provide the children with water play in a safe environment.

The second phase will see upgrades to the aging playground equipment, thus breathing life back into this extremely popular…..and heavily used playground in Pembroke.

He also noted that the rehabilitation of Marsh Folly is already begun! Minister Weeks:

After many years of talk regarding the Marsh Folly Dump, I am happy to report that this Government is delivering on its promise to convert the Marsh Folly Facility into the future Pembroke Park and Nature Reserve.

We have long realized the importance of this space to the residents of one of Bermuda’s most populated and urbanized parishes. So now we want to make this a reality!

Again, I am pleased to report that the first phase of the restoration work is already underway.

Important not only for its rare ecology, supporting rare resident and wintering water birds, this Nature Reserve is an important holding area for storm water runoff.

Restoration of the marsh will not only create an important natural habitat…..and beautiful vistas for surrounding residents…..it will also help reduce future flooding along Pembroke Canal.

Over the next three years the Reserve will be restored as an oasis for wildlife, with natural islands, scenic overlooks and walking paths.

It is anticipated that this restoration initiative will create work opportunities for local contractors in the fields of dredging, landscaping and trucking.

Finally, pedestrian crossings will be added and roads will be enhanced next year:

In consultation with the Ministry of Education, pedestrian crossings near school zones will be elevated to reduce the speed of traffic in these areas.

Coupled with this initiative, we will also continue with plans to install beacon lights at school crossings.

As the safety of our children is of paramount importance, this work will be prioritized in the Public Works road maintenance plan in the upcoming year.

Finally, the Ministry will continue with its upgrades to Bermuda’s highway infrastructure.

In particular, energy will be directed towards ensuring sidewalks around the island are readily accessible to persons with mobility challenges.

This will include the removal of all trip hazards so that access points on and off sidewalks will be made wheelchair friendly.

I would like to conclude by stating that this Government takes seriously the well-being of all its citizens.

And with this particular initiative, those whose mobility is limited such as the elderly and physically challenged.

Enhanced Parks. Marsh Folly rehabilitation. More roads. Progress is being made. The PLP is surely and steadily moving Bermuda forward and into the future.

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New Generation of Garbage Trucks - More Cost Effective than Ever Before!

Last week, Minister Michael Weeks announced that the PLP Government delivered eight new garbage trucks that were 35% cheaper than our last shipment.

And, there are even more cost savings according to solid waste manager Allen Hunt:

An advantage in ordering out of New Jersey is that the Ministry should now be able to secure spare
parts for these vehicles through HFI Truck Centre rather than the Japanese manufacturer - which should further reduce the time these vehicles may be off the road for repairs.

With this new shipment of vehicles, this brings the fleet to 19 vehicles. However, as a number of these trucks are beyond 12 years old, the Ministry will have to decommission several trucks as it is simply no longer economically viable to keep them in the fleet.

We're delivering more efficient vehicles to serve you and being mindful of the cost. This is what it means to stand strong for Bermudians.

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Marsh Folly Clean Up Underway

Yesterday, Minister Michael Weeks announced that the PLP Government is in the process of cleaning up Marsh Folly.

The Marsh restoration will take three years and will, after completion, be a critical sanctuary for water birds and as beautiful “green lung” for local residents. It will also improve its function as a natural water purifier for the adjacent composting facility and as a storm water sump to help reduce flooding of the Pembroke Canal downstream.

The periphery of the Marsh will be redesigned with new dykes and a sluice to better contain storm water and address occasional flooding caused by storm water runoff. These will be topped with a series of walking trails and foot bridges to allow public access around the Marsh but that “will not disturb the wildlife”. The interior of the Marsh will be dredged of invasive plants to create islands which will be restored to their natural state with marsh loving native and endemic plants.

Currently work has already begun on phase 1 of the restoration to clear the invasive plants clogging the shallow water areas of the Marsh along the south, west and northern boundaries. This was started in early summer and it is anticipated that this work will continue for several months using specialized machinery suitable for the “boggy” nature of the Marsh to complement the Government landscaping crews which will continue to work on more solid ground. While this on site work is being completed the Ministry will complete the infrastructure design which will be installed as Phase 2 of the project.

Minister Weeks:

This ambitious restoration project illustrates this Government’s continued commitment to its pledge to preserve Bermuda’s natural heritage for future generations; setting aside and improving threatened habitat for not only Bermuda’s unique wildlife but also for the social wellbeing of our people.

This plan has already been presented to the National Parks Commission and has their support and is being developed in partnership with the Department of Conservation Services, Solid Waste, Structures and Highways Section of the Ministry of Public Works.

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Improving the Mullet Bay Playground

Yesterday, Minister Michael Weeks announced the reopening of the Mullet Bay playground after the PLP Government improved it.

Minister Weeks:

With the re-opening of this St. George’s Playground there is a real feeling of joy with the recognition that one of St. George’s well known open spaces has received a well deserved make-over and will serve the needs of the community for many decades to come.

The park has come a long way. I don’t know if many of you realize this, but it was originally part of Mullet Bay and was filled in to make the park. I understand that for a long time after, it was not unusual for children to find sea shells here!

Improving the Mullet Bay Playground. This is what standing strong for Bermudians looks like.

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Investing in Improving Purvis Park Residences

The PLP believes in investments, not austerity. That's why we're standing strong for the residents by upgrading their living facility.

The upgrades will also create jobs and opportunities for Bermudian contractors and workers. Premier Cox:

We recognise that meeting the demands and needs of our senior’s population requires partnerships from all involved and the Purvis Park Seniors Residence stands out as a good example in providing the types of services that our seniors need.

So today in support of the BHT, this Government is very pleased to donate some much needed funds in the amount of $86,000 to the BHT so that they can enact the necessary upgrades and improvements to this housing facility...

And it’s days like today that I am keen to remind the community that we are solving people’s problems, we are standing up for Bermudians and yes, we are indeed making sure and steady progress in delivering on our commitment to the residents of Bermuda.

In addition to improving the lives of our seniors, this facility will also create jobs and opportunities for Bermudians. This is what standing strong for Bermudians during tough times for the global economy looks like.

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Honouring Someone Who Helped So Many

Nelson Bascome was a grassroots leader who dedicated his life to fighting for the least among us. Now, we honour him by opening Nelson Bascome, Jr. Way.

Minister Michael Weeks:

Today we honour the outstanding contributions of a bright, shining star taken from us far too soon! As we open Nelson Bascome Jr. Way, we pay tribute to a warrior for community activism – a man who devoted much of his time and energy to uplifting the Friswells Hill community - and a man who made a profound difference in the lives of many young men today...

Nelson Bascome Jr. Way is a way we will continue to keep the flame of his memory alive through our commitment to improving our communities...

Perhaps it is most poignant that the Hon. Nelson Bascome Jr. recognized early on, the dangers of young men falling through the cracks of society and he was determined to instill in these men a belief in their natural born potential to thrive and grow and to avoid anti-social behavior. In fact he was so passionate about this idea that he thrust himself into the world of sport by coaching the Devonshire Colts Junior Soccer team and served on the executive of the Bermuda Football Association.

Nelson believed that sport could be a vehicle to self improvement in all areas of life and a positive way to channel the minds and bodies of young men. As a football coach he did not tolerate bad behavior and even while he wanted the young sportsmen to excel in this game, he was a strong disciplinarian and wanted to ensure their education remained a priority for their future development and wellbeing.

Although this man of the people had great faith in young people to take their rightful place in society, his actions were not based on faith alone as he felt compelled to undertake initiatives to address the conditions of social dislocation. So with this in mind he became the co-founder of 100 Black Men of Bermuda and became a member of the Community Advice Centre which provided free counseling. He was also a Life Member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity and a founder of the Bermuda Alumni Chapter. In addition, he also organized the support group Single Parents In Action to deal with issues confronted by single parent families and he dedicated his time to the Venturilla Summer School for Boys, the People’s Movement and the St. Monica’s Social Action Committee. And in 1993 he was the first Bermudian to become a Certified Employee Assistance Professional and established the first drug-free sports policy in Bermuda.

There is a great deal more I can share about the numerous accomplishments of the Hon. Nelson Bascome Jr. and his efforts to uplift the Friswells Hill Community, but let us take a moment to reflect on the significance of this occasion and what it says about the legacy of a man who truly made his mark on the community. It is often said that we do not fully appreciate the good deeds of an individual when they are alive but at this moment in time clearly this community will do well to recall what this Parliamentarian and community activist stood for.

The former Minister of Health devoted his life to improving the lives of others stemming from his love for his community and certain Christian tenets he sought to stay steadfast to. He was particularly fond of one passage in the Bible – It was Proverbs Three, vs. Five and Six, which states: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all ways acknowledge Him and he will make your paths straight.” Minister Bascome never waivered on this and much of what compelled him to action was derived from his core Christian beliefs.

A commitment to community service was evident soon after he returned from studying abroad at university when he spearheaded the formation of several community organizations such as the Friswell’s Hill United, a neighbourhood community service organization established in 1985 to promote community and cultural events. Also in 1985, he taught the youth of the Pembroke Community Club Drum Corps through parades and concerts.

A commitment to social justice was a constant feature even while he pursued his professional career as an alcohol and drug counselor in the addictions field, and this commitment continued as he pursued his parliamentary career serving the constituents of Pembroke East, first being elected in 1989, and eventually being sworn in as Minister of Health on November 10, 1998.

We remember Minister Bascome. We honour him for his commitment. And, we must double down and stand with someone who stood strongly with us for so many years!

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Annoyed by the Chickens? PLP is Taking Action

Sick of getting woken up by crowing roosters? We are too and that's why the PLP is taking action.

Yesterday, Minister Michael Weeks outlined the problem:

The problem of feral chickens may seem trivial to some, however, to the many residents who are affected they are a very real nuisance. Concerns range from crowing roosters causing sleepless nights and the spreading of trash, to significant economic crop and garden damage, attacks on park users and hotel guests, destruction of threatened habitats in our nature reserves – as well as potential disease vectors for Salmonella and Bird Flu that could impact public human health.

Bermuda’s feral chicken situation is not a new one. We have been experiencing it for several decades. It is believed that this problem was significantly exacerbated as a result of Hurricane Emily in 1987 when many domestic chicken coops were destroyed, thus “seeding” small populations of feral chickens throughout the island.
Since then our feral chicken population has grown significantly and they can now be found in parks, nature reserves, golf courses, open fields, hotels, waste treatment areas, housing complexes and residential areas. Basically everywhere!

To give you an idea of the extent of the infestation - it is estimated that there are over 30,000 chickens roaming throughout the island and these numbers continue to grow exponentially. To illustrate, a hen can produce a clutch of eggs every 20 weeks. A typical clutch size is eight to 15 chicks and most of these survive due to Bermuda’s “generous” climate. In turn, these same chicks become fertile after 20 weeks. As a result one single hen can lead to the creation of between 64 and 198 chicks per year.

The Minister went on to outline what the government is doing about it:

Government Departments have tried since the 1980s to control this issue by introducing a number of pilot programs, with mixed success. The most recent program is currently being run by the Department of Conservation Services. Started in August 2011, this programme has culled over 3,500 feral chickens using a variety of traps, nets, and traditional methods. Drawing on the success of this program an Integrated Pest Management Plan has been developed to control the proliferation of feral chickens with an aim to eradicate the problem by the year 2015.

Key components of the plan include:
1. The creation of an inter-Ministerial working group which combines existing resources and coordinates the efforts of all government organizations that are mandated to control this problem;

2. Improved legislation to stop public feeding and release of chickens into the wild;

3. The use of a variety of proven techniques best suited to each situation that are efficient and humane;

4. And, finally, the creation of a public relation and awareness campaign which will seek to notify the public of areas under management and also provide information on proper care and management of domestic chickens. This information will be posted on the Conservation website at www.conservation.bm

The solution may not be as easy as you think. Minister Weeks:

You may ask, “Why can’t we simply trap the feral chickens, test them for disease and parasites, and place them in a Government or privately operated chicken or egg-farm?” To this I can advise that our technical officers have considered a number of options with respect to harnessing this as a potential industry.

The idea of developing a chicken farm, for example, was not found to be cost effective and thought of as unfair competition to existing business. Additionally, a “seed” population of perhaps 500 chickens, made up of only the best “hen layers” and a small population of roosters would be needed to start any new farm. However, the majority of feral birds would not be suitable for breeding or egg laying. Furthermore, hens only have a relatively short laying life. This would leave a significant portion of feral chickens either unproductive or unsellable.

Similarly, our technical officers estimate there are a huge number of roosters (approx. 50% or 15,000) which would not have any use. As a result, there would be no incentive to trap the remaining large population, estimated around the 29,500 of feral chickens, freely roaming the island. In essence, to capture and test 30,000 feral chickens for consumption would simply be unrealistic and cost prohibitive.

Another idea was that of selling the feathers on the international market for use in plastics, in paper pulp or textiles. To this I have to advise we keep in mind that there is nothing special about our birds either in meat, pedigree or organic. There would be little that makes them stand out from the huge supply already in existence in the U.S. Further, export of feathers would most likely not be commercially viable given the high cost to clean, sort and bag – as well as high fuel costs to export. The export of eggs would face similar problems.

To that end, we believe that the Integrated Pest Management Plan I have just outlined is the best way forward.

Our goal is to eradicate the problem by August 2015.

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Saving Money & the Environment

Government's recycling programme is both helping the environment and helping save money, Minister Michael Weeks reported today.

Today, the Ministry explained the benefits of Bermuda’s TAG (tin, aluminum and glass) Curb-Side recycling programme to the community.

The program helps the environment by reducing the need for landfilling and incineration, it saves energy, it decreases emissions of greenhouse gases, it conserves natural resources and it prevents pollution caused by the manufacturing of products from virgin materials.

There's more. Recycling glass can be used as a building material for various construction projects – such as the creation of walls and roads. And, it saves us the cost of purchasing new materials.

Minister Michael Weeks:

Because of its weight and the lack of a ready re-sale market, glass is not shipped overseas for recycling, but is crushed and reused locally. Crushed glass is being used in place of expensive imported aggregate and soil in the construction of wall, roadways and to assist with drainage in large construction projects.

Glass can also be used to neutralize soil pH in local golf courses, which is an important part of keeping these areas looking green. In fact, it has been used at the Government golf courses since 1992. Crushed glass is ideal for this purpose as it doesn’t break down into any by-products of harmful materials. The glass has been tested for use on the golf courses and has received a clean bill of health.

The accompanying photograph depicts construction workers from a private contractor using crushed glass and rubble to backfill a wall on Mission Lane this week.

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Infrastructure Investment Set to Improve Traffic Bottleneck

Today, Minister Michael Weeks announced that the PLP's commitment to infrastructure is about to extend to clearing up the traffic bottleneck at Angel Steps.

Minister Michael Weeks makes the announcement:

The Angel steps scheme is about 250 feet in length and will result in the widening of the road to just over 21 feet wide. The overall cost of the scheme is approximately $400,000 and is scheduled for completion in December of this year of this barring any unforeseen issues.

The Angel Steps scheme will comprise the construction of one reinforced concrete block wall of 148 feet in length and approximate height of 7 feet – coupled with one reinforced block wall just under 100 feet long and approximately 15 feet high. Both walls give the appearance that they are constructed out of Bermuda stone once finished. Initial work will concentrate on the smaller of the two walls.

There will also be a narrow sidewalk between the wall and the road to increase pedestrian safety.

There's more work to do. Minister Weeks announces the next projects:

The next area we are looking to widen is Middle Road Warwick between Whites Supermarket and Spicelands Riding School. This stretch of road has also been identified as a potential hazardous bottleneck due to the rock cut there.

Other schemes currently under consideration include junction improvements at the foot of Flatts Hill, the Blackwatch Pass, the Middle Road/Montpelier Road Devonshire junction, and at the Lighthouse Hill/Middle Road Southampton junction.

In these tough economic times, we're standing strong for Bermudians by investing in projects that protect and create jobs and improve people's lives. These road projects will make our roads safer and less congested. We look forward to groundbreaking!

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Investing in Bermudians and Our Environment

Today, Minister Michael Weeks announced that an annual grant of $61,000 was to be awarded to KBB (Keep Bermuda Beautiful) to help reduce littering and illegal dumping.

Minister Weeks:

I would like to commend KBB for their continued commitment to keeping our environment clean and raising public awareness about the need to end the practice of littering both on land and at sea...

Our goal is to tackle litter and dumping hotspots with such clean-up activities and to encourage residents to take greater responsibility in disposing of their waste properly as well as protecting our Island’s fragile environment.

We believe in investing in community groups like Keep Bermuda Beautiful. During these challenging times, we believe in standing strong for Bermudians and the good work that they are doing to keep our island safe and clean.

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