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The Road to the Citadel: Helping Haiti’s Tourism Sector

Published 03/14/2011 by Global Communities

The Road to the Citadel: Helping Haiti’s Tourism Sector
Haiti’s lone UNESCO World Heritage Site, judged as the most historically significant locations around the globe, encompasses both the Laferrière Citadel and Sans Souci Palace. Both date from the early 19th century as Haiti emerged as an independent state. While the Citadel is the largest fortress in the Americas, the Palace was modeled after Versailles. Abandoned following an earthquake in 1842, centuries of neglect meant that both access to the site and the unspoiled beauty of the area were at risk.
To help mitigate against erosion caused by years of deforestation, CHF — through funding by USAID — constructed almost 10 kilometers of stone terracing and other protective measures around the Citadel. At the same time, CHF planted almost 40,000 trees and 133,000 plants to prevent erosion of the newly-terraced mountainsides. The terracing and reforestation combined to protect more than 34 hectares of land surrounding the World Heritage Site.
Likewise, the historic road to the Citadel had been nearly worn away, making even foot access precarious. CHF therefore repaired 455 square meters of the original cobblestone road leading from the Palace to the Citadel. To reinforce key sections of this road, CHF installed 1.8 kilometers of gabion structures (i.e. thick wire baskets filled with rocks).

Getting from Port to Palace
One of most renowned beaches in Haiti is found at Labadie, located on a secluded peninsula to the west of Cap Haitien. About 6,000 tourists arrive here every week on luxury cruise ships to enjoy the classic Caribbean mix of white sand and coral reefs. However, only about 23 kilometers away from the beaches of Labadie lies another extraordinary location — the UNESCO World Heritage Site housing both Laferrière Citadel and Sans Souci Palace. Unfortunately, difficulty in accessing the site means that only about 30 tourists per week are able to visit.
CHF International, with funding from USAID, is upgrading the small country road that the Government of Haiti would like to use as a way for cruise ship passengers to access the World Heritage Site. The project, which started in December 2010, involves upgrading the road at critical points by leveling the surface, constructing a small bridge, and adding other structures to facilitate year-round travel via bus and car.

Rehabilitating and protecting Sans Souci Palace
Sans Souci Palace (literally mean-ing “No Worries Palace”) was built from 1811-1813 by Haiti’s King Henri Christophe in the north, only 20 kilometers south of Cap Haitien. Before the palace was severely damaged by an earthquake in 1842, it was considered the Caribbean equivalent of the Palace of Versailles. The historical grounds of Sans Souci encompass 16.77 hectares, including not just the main palace, but also ruined structures such as gardens, kitchens, a printing house, and a swimming pool.
Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1982, it was listed in a recent study as one of the 12 sites worldwide facing the greatest risk of irreparable loss and destruction. In order to stop further degradation and better control the entrance of visitors, CHF is securing the complex with a combination of a metal cyclone fence around the perimeter and a rehabilitated historic wall inside the property. The fence and wall will not only help bet-ter preserve one of Haiti’s top historical sites, but will allow tourists to visit Sans Souci with “no worries” of their own.
CHF has performed all of its work in the historic area with the authorization, supervision and collaboration of the Institute of the Preservation of National Heritage (ISPAN), Haiti’s government agency tasked with protecting its cultural heritage.