Among the natural treasures of San Fernando are the San Fernando Hill and the wharf.
Since the early 1980s, the Hill was developed as a major tourist attraction overlooking the city. However, the wharf overlooking the Gulf of Paria continues to lag behind in aesthetics and opportunities to become a thing of beauty.
In 1972, plans for the beautification of the San Fernando wharf were submitted to the Ministry of Local Government for approval.
Some 40 years later there are no indications that the southern city will have an enhanced waterfront similar to the one at the capital city of Port of Spain.
Instead of instituting a Foreshore Reclamation Plan, work has begun on the construction of a boardwalk.
The boardwalk will hardly provide sustainable economic development; it will, however, improve the aesthetics of the waterfront and provide opportunities for leisure and will recall the historical activities that took place there since the arrival of the Amerindians from South America thousands of years ago.
The Amerindians had arrived there in their dugout canoes to establish connections with their sun god, Haburi, whom they believed was living on San Fernando Hill.
In pursuit of this, they came from Venezuela, landed on the waterfront, tied up their canoes and on their way to the Hill they created an access which later became Street Commercial or High Street, and another called Carib Street.
Another noted visitor to San Fernando was Sir Walter Raleigh, the English explorer, who landed at the wharf in 1595 while sailing along the shore. His visit was recorded in his ship's log in the following words, "From thence we sailed to the mountain foote, called by the naturals Annaparima."
Raleigh was in search of gold. Not finding any in San Fernando, he sailed northwards and landed in every cove in an attempt to know the island better.
The next major activity that took place was the establishment of the town of San Fernando in 1792 by Don Jose Maria Chacon, the last Spanish Governor of Trinidad. He could be credited with establishing Plaza de San Carlos, a few metres away from the wharf area.
After the capture of Trinidad by the British in 1797, trade between San Fernando and the French islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe began to flourish. The then-governor Sir Ralph James Woodford, realising the importance of a jetty in the development of San Fernando, gave a grant of 40,000 pounds sterling in 1817 to the town to construct a wooden jetty to meet the growing demands of commercial shipping.
Woodford, under the terms of the loan, had directed that it be repaid from tariffs charged for shipping goods in and out of San Fernando.
One year later on December 18, 1818, the wharf shot into the news when the steamer SS Woodford made its first commercial voyage between San Fernando and Port of Spain using the wharf to disembark passengers.
Almost two centuries later, the remains of the first wharf hang precariously at the waterfront where it provides a home for seagulls and oysters. When the Government was searching for a suitable jetty for the water taxi in 2008 they had no alternative but to find a location south of the dilapidated jetty.
As maritime traffic increased in San Fernando during the mid-19th century, Jean-Baptiste Phillipe, a French Creole businessman, formed a company in 1827 on lands overlooking the wharf, where he constructed San Fernando's first hotel.
During the 19th century when sugar was king, supplies of raw sugar were shipped to Martinique and Guadeloupe at a point where the Cipero River met the Gulf of Paria. That area then became known as Embacadere, a point of embarkation for the shipment of sugar from the Naparimas. Because of increased shipping activities the area was declared a port of call in 1837.
The next event to grab the headlines was the introduction of a rail system from Port of Spain to San Fernando, which began in April 1882. The new rail system was an offshoot from an earlier system called the Cipero Tramroad Company, which was started by Scotsman William Eccles.
Observers believe the remains of what represents the last train to San Fernando should have been installed at the wharf instead of Harris Promenade.
By 1895, the wharf had become more than a shipping point. It had become a popular place for aquatic sports. An organisation called the San Fernando Rowing Club had erected a boat club on the water's edge, and, on an annual basis, regattas were held on New Year's Day.
This event attracted hundreds of visitors to the wharf.
The regattas came to an end in 1900 when, in that year, one Mr Pasea, starter of the regattas, was accidentally shot with the starter's pistol.
Other activities that took place at the wharf included the annual Carnival celebrations, which were first held there in 1923. Not only were masqueraders and Carnival bands participating in the celebrations at the wharf, but there were snake charmers and stickfighters who added colour to the festivities.
All of this took place under the eaves and around a building built in 1911 that came to be known as Rodriguez Building. At first it housed San Fernando's first departmental store and was later converted to an automobile showroom owned by Neal and Massy.
Later the building became the southern headquarters for the Ministry of Agriculture, Lands and Fisheries.
The fish market and abattoir built in 1924 brought vendors and fishermen to the area.
For many years, animals were slaughtered at the abattoir until such activities were moved to another area. Along the way to Bontour Point, the First Trinidad Sea Scouts had erected their headquarters in 1931.
The construction of Lady Hailes Avenue, leading out of San Fernando, opened up areas hitherto hidden with large downs trees.
One such area was Flat Rock, which was a known diving pad for sea bathers and those wanting to visit Faralon Island, where the Gittens family had erected a holiday home. That, too, is now abandoned in spite of its potential to be upgraded to a tourist attraction.
Because large numbers of bunkers from Norway docked at Pointe-a-Pierre during the early 20th century to collect crude from the refinery, the Norwegian government built a special home and church for its seamen along Lady Hailes Avenue. It was called the Norwegian Seamen's Home.
Following the decline of activities between Norway and Trinidad, the home remained vacant for several years until it was converted to a fire station. It is now abandoned.
Further south was the famous tomb of the Bontour family located on a promontory overlooking the Gulf. Benicregoldo Carlos Bontour and his family came from Venezuela to San Fernando to escape the turbulent social uprisings in that country. On arrival he was granted lands in what is known today as Independence Avenue. Upon his death in 1850 he was buried in a tomb known to visitors as The Sagrado Tomb.
This historic monument was bulldozed into the Gulf when a road leading from Broadway to a proposed landfill site was being developed in the 1960s.
These events and much more are part of the colourful history of San Fernando wharf.
Admittedly the Foreshore Reclamation Plan is a challenging proposition, its alternative the boardwalk is but a part of the development needed for sustainable business and cultural offerings in the city.