Barkers poses conservation challenges

| 30/01/2017 | 29 Comments
Cayman News Service

Barkers National Park

(CNS): The Barkers National Park, which has long been earmarked as a possible protected area, is on the list of proposed areas that the National Conservation Council considers a priority area for legal protection, but it is not without its challenges. Government acquired most of the land in the popular and still relatively unspoiled area of West Bay for the purposes of establishing a park long before the passage of the National Conservation Law. However, it was never formally protected and a central chunk of the land has since been acquired by a major investor.

While it is likely to be a popular choice with the public from the first six of potential areas that the NCC has proposed as areas worthy or in need of conservation, a large and critical part of the park is in private hands. It is understood that one of the Dart Group’s web of companies owns a significant slice of beachfront property in the centre of the overall area that was originally earmarked to be a national park.

The Department of Environment, which has posted a detailed document about the park, said there were many important at-risk species of flora and fauna in Barkers that are in need of protection, including the rare indigenous pygmy blue butterfly, which is very habitat-specific and depends on the saltwort marshes and the glasswort that grows in the area.

But  experts have identified some significant challenges to conservation in the area, including invasive green iguanas, which are present in the Barkers area and pose extremely serious threats to the natural ecosystems. The Mosquito Research and Control Unit’s dyke roads in the area also provide easy access for other alien species, including feral cats, roaming dogs, and invasive plants.

The invasive Casuarina equisetifolia, or Australian Pine, has already got a grip in the park in the man-modified areas, and experts believe there will need to be an eradication project to remove the trees and keep them at bay, with annual seedling removal for several years.

Cayman News Service

Cayman pygmy blue butterfly (courtesy Department of Environment)

The DoE has also pointed out that as the pygmy blue butterfly depends on a grasswort, which is scarce and fragile, special measures will need to be taken to protect the plant in the park’s management plan. Give that it is vulnerable to trampling by humans and horses, which are all using Barkers, the grasswort must be mapped in detail and a plan devised to protect it from physical disturbance.

“Management of the Barkers National Park as a holistic entity is liable to be complex because it involves a variety of stakeholders, including established nature tourism businesses, a majority landowner, the Mosquito Research and Control Unit, and currently un-managed use by the general public,” the DoE warned in its consultation document about the proposal to make Barkers a legally protected area.

They also point out that the original vision for the park has been undermined as its realization now depends primarily on a cooperative agreement “with the private company which owns almost all the area of the proposed Park” that is not crown, or government-owned, land. The DoE is hopeful that the landowner will consider a land management plan, but if the islands largest developer and investor does not agree, a less comprehensive management plan and a reduced concept for the park will be needed.

Despite the challenges, the DoE said it believes it is feasible to protect the area and create a national park because it is such an important habitat. The area is not just ecologically important, it is also a place of cultural importance. Barkers has a long history of public recreational activity, such as fishing, snorkelling and birdwatching, and is valued by the residents of West Bay. Easter camping in Barkers is a culturally important annual tradition.

The Barkers beach ridge supports one of the last substantial coastal sand forests remaining in Grand Cayman, with a diversity of tree species, including ironwood, bull thatch, broadleaf, silver thatch, washwood and mahogany, with an understory of cocoplum and other shrubs. A cerion land snail endemic to Grand Cayman is associated with the forest, and the interior of the Barkers Peninsula is wetland, supporting several distinct mangrove communities. The ponds in the area are valuable for water birds, the DoE said, and the shallow water is an important shark nursery.

Protection of Barkers will safeguard mangrove needed to maintain mangrove nutrient flows, essential to the productivity of North Sound but which have suffered extensive loss on the western side of the island. Protecting Barkers could also help in the recovery of the pygmy blue butterfly population.

See the full consultation document here.

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Category: Land Habitat, Science & Nature

Comments (29)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Relatively unspoiled? The entire place has been ditched and drained for years. The canals are lifeless. The beach and snorkelling are nice but the rest is an iguana refuge. Already ruined from a nature standpoint.

    • Anonymous says:

      A dangerously in-informed claim. The canals are lifeless? Do you even go outside?
      Already ruined? You ain’t seen nothing yet.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Classic KY attitude, sell land, pocket the money, then cry foul and whine about the person who bought it.

    Always trying to make a short term buck and never thinking about the long term or the next generation

    • Anonymous says:

      Sounds like you came here with that opinion. Most of the crying about Barkers here is from me. An expat.

  3. Al Catraz says:

    “Government acquired most of the land in the popular and still relatively unspoiled area of West Bay…. However, it was never formally protected and a central chunk of the land has since been acquired by a major investor.”

    Like magic!

  4. Anonymous says:

    I think a point has been missed here-the same people moaning about Dart and all others on here are probably the same people dumping their trash there each weekend, leaving it on the beach, doing maniacal things on their motorbikes and goodness knows what other illegal activities…..

    • Anonymous says:

      Well, I for one am not one of those same people, and that is a weak and worn out argument.
      I immensely enjoy the naturalness of the area. I am disgusted by the trash and don’t care for the whine of the dirt bikes (and yes, I even begrudge young people having frivolous fun) But its way more pristine than say a Camana Bay. (Which I enjoy on occasion)
      I could easily write. ‘the people that want to develop Barkers are probably the same people that have soulless jobs, boring marriages, and are lost in life and so need to rush to the next, latest new place to have a cocktail and avoid their life for one more afternoon’
      While this may apply to some, it may offend the others and is misleading.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Lately this has also become the habitat of the invasive green Kawasaki.

    • Anonymous says:

      Not the Kawasaki??? I was hoping for only a Goldwing or Harley D…

    • Anonymous says:

      Wait til the invasive yellow backhoes, excavators, steel trucks, cement trucks, blocks, drywall, etc etc and then the ‘mellow groove’ of sweet Caribbean music, beer and bottles and an army of barefoot people arrive having an oh so wonderful time dahling.
      Give me 5 obnoxious, local looking hollow eyed teenagers ANY day. Please.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Hardly a shock… Just hope Government can get this space out of their sticky hands.

  7. Anonymous says:

    The dyke roads also provide easy access to native species who use them on a regular basis to dump their garbage.

  8. Anonymous says:

    The dyke roads also provide easy access to native species who use them to dump all sorts of garbage in the area and have done so for many years.

  9. anonymous says:

    Does anyone know who benifited from the sale of the land ? If it was govt. land who gave the order to sell it ? Curious to know.

  10. Unison says:

    Cns, could you post a photo of the rare pygmy blue butterfly? Never heard of it. And does this wing creature found only in the Barkers area?

    CNS: I’ve added a picture of the butterfly. It was taken from the DoE website here, where you can read more about it.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Dart sometimes makes me heart sick. I love the Barkers area.

    • Cheese Face says:

      Why, what have they done other than buy some land?

      • Anonymous says:

        Well, they bought the land. I’d say he has a pretty predictable record of “improving” it through development. If you are the kind of person that can go to a place like barkers as it is now, and love and appreciate the natural beauty you will understand. If you are going to do the ole dart cheer of “you got to admit, when dart does something, at least he does it right” then you won’t understand. Maybe when you are older, or maybe not ever.

        • Cheese Face says:

          I love Barkers, and I’m really old. I’m just asking what the problem is? If they “pave it and put up a parking lot” then I can see your point. But Dart do own significant lands that they do not intend to develop.

    • Anonymous says:

      What about all the horse back riding establishments that use Barkus as a business to take tourists. They have been doing this for over 20 years. What will happen now?

  12. Anonymous says:

    FOH Dart

    • Anonymous says:

      Dart didn’t just magically “acquire” this land – someone sold it to him. So did a private landowner sell it or did CIG sell/trade this land to Dart?

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