West Bayers fear loss of Barkers Beach

| 31/05/2021 | 38 Comments
Cayman News Service
Barkers Beach, Grand Cayman

(CNS): Local non-profit groups, conservation advocates and activists in West Bay and beyond are joining forces to mount a focused campaign to save Barkers Beach and secure the location as a formally protected national park before the area is developed. Fears are mounting as development around the much loved natural beauty spot gathers pace and private landowners are looking to profit from the last remaining stretch of beach on the western side of Grand Cayman.

With no national park laws and a mix of landowners in Barkers, activists have their work cut out. Nevertheless, plans emerged at a public meeting last week to begin an earnest campaign to protect the entire area.

More than 150 people attended a public meeting in the district on Wednesday night, including representatives of Save Barkers, the West Bay Action Committee, Concerned Citizens, Amplify Cayman and Sustainable Cayman, to address a number of issues relating to West Bay.

The main aim of the meeting was to create a community-wide West Bay District Council to coordinate communication between residents and their representatives until the law is enacted to create formal district councils. However, the evening was dominated by fears about runaway development and the need for residents to get involved in controlling what is happening in their community.

Eden Hurlston, who hosted the meeting, bringing many of Grand Cayman’s community groups together, urged people to be observant about all development happening in the district. But it was was clear that residents feel very strongly about Barkers.

The coastal works application to dredge beachfront land owned by Dart deep in the heart of the park has, CNS learned after being contacted by an official at the Dart group, Monday been withdrawn. However none of the campaigners were aware of this and there is no indication on any government website that this is the case. The proposal was fiercely opposed and sparked the original campaign to protect the entire Barkers peninsular. The plan had been to create a new location for the old Calico Jacks bar after the Dart group turfed out Handel Whittaker, the owner of the long running and popular beach spot, when it built the Kimpton Hotel.

Activists are now looking at numerous ways in which it can protect the area, and Hurlston explained that research is underway to understand the ownership of the land in the area. Suggestions have been made that the Environmental Protection Fund should be used to acquire the critical parts of the coastline that are currently in private hands. The EPF was originally created to be used for conservation purposes, including buying land, and according to the latest figures revealed by Finance Minister Chris Saunders, it has a current balance of $58 million.

The meeting also covered many other situations where development is negatively impacting the district. In one, numerous residents have an ongoing battle with the planning department because they were not notified about the Serrana project at North West Point, where coastal setbacks have again been waived against the advice of the Department of Environment.

Landowners in the vicinity have been able to highlight a failure of the system that is supposed to ensure that neighbours have fair notification when development is proposed that would impact their lives. Not only does the planning department use the regular mail system to notify land owners, it uses box numbers that are in many cases decades out of date.

Another development that has stirred up controversy is the one on Boggy Sand. Planning conditions required the beach to be protected during construction but neighbours filmed rubble and construction debris being dumped on the beach, which is a critical turtle nesting habitat, especially as the breeding season is already underway.

The threats to the mangroves in the district and how they can be protected were highlighted by Melanie Carmichael, one of the conservationists behind the recent proposal for a mangrove park in South Sound. She urged the West Bay groups to come up with neighbourhood conservation projects that they can advocate for as part of the review of the national development plan.

The beach access challenges that already exist in and around West Bay, as well as the new threat posed by Dart’s company, Crymble Landholding Ltd, and its latest application for a planned area development were also discussed. The project proposed would shut off at least 24 more beach and coastal access points. Billy Adam outlined the courtroom battles that continue on two fronts: one to get the government to register beach access, as obligated by law, and secondly to overturn a planning decision to allow Dart to close and move several beach access points along Seven Mile Beach.

The general message from the meeting was that it is up to the people and residents themselves to protect their environment and do everything they can to reverse the current trend of uncontrolled development before it is too late.

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Category: development, Land Habitat, Local News, Science & Nature

Comments (38)

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  1. Terry says:

    If you think about it, the Stamp Duty on property has got to be a huge source of income for the Cayman Government. A field with a cow in it (or a natural Barkers park) has no value to the government. A 10 story eyesore with million dollar condos on the same field where the cow used to live a forever source of Stamp Duty income as the condos get sold over and over. No wonder developers and the government agencies approving the crazy developments are in the same pocket.

    • Profit cent says:

      And it’s not a one time thing, Show me any eyesore on the horizon and ill show you an ongoing cash cow for government as those units turn, and turn again!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Sustainable development requires human ingenuity. People are the most important resource. Community Creates Country.

    The eco and people haters on here have no interest in development for the country or the community and will end up floundering in the wilderness.

  3. Anonymous says:

    ….you should be calling on your representative.. The great “Plain and Simple”

  4. Anonymous says:

    Where will they flytip all their junk and old mattresses if it gets developed?

    In all seriousness though kudos to those people seeking to preserve Barkers as the relatively undeveloped spot it is; thank you!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Well done to all those involved.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Maybe the headline should be, “West Bayers fear loss of place to illegally dump, drink and do drugs.” Based on what is left behind after their visits, that’s what Barkers is seemingly used for.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Enough of the hand wringing, it is all self inflicted. McKeeva allowed 10 stories and reduced the notice perimeter for Planning, yet the WB folks keep electing him. The Cayman people allow the CPA to rubber stamp all manner of projects with no long term plan. The chickens have come home to roost.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Two of the three persons named in the article are not West Bayers.

  9. Anonymous says:

    They should buy it from then

    • Anonymous says:

      Best comment, buy back the land that you regret taking money for, and don’t develop it ‘cos investment (and God forbid profit) is a terrible thing.
      If you’re not willing to do that, then move on.

    • Anonymous says:

      Agree. I wonder how many land owners are members of these “Community Groups”? This is just one more way to spend other people’s money.

  10. B.D. Waytogo says:

    How can people and residents protect their environment and reverse the current trend of uncontrolled development? They don’t have the support of the Cayman Islands Government . All I’ve seen so far are the people at CPA and OfReg doing all they can to ignore the citizens of the Cayman Islands and keep raking in everything they can for themselves. This isn’t the way a government “For the People” acts! Enough is enough. Stop the “Get everything we can” and make the Cayman Islands a great place for the people. Can it be done? YES! …………………. but not until we get the money grubbers out of the government.

  11. Anonymous says:

    We’re waiting to hear from you Premier Panton!!!!!

    • Anonymous says:

      He fishnin’

      • Have u ever gone to and spend a few quite hours at barks during any day or time in the week,not on weekends,well I have,and it’s the best and most peaceful and serene times I’ve ever spent in my entire life,no humans,just the birds, breeze,and surf,I even fell asleep sitting right there in my car,so yeah let’s all save barks from greed corrupted $ grabbed,do it for our future generations

  12. Anonymous says:

    How many conservationists’ houses were built on mangrove swamp?

    • Anonymous says:

      Just because it’s happened doesn’t mean it needs to continue when there are dilapidated buildings that could be revived first.

      • Anonymous says:

        Ok , you go revive them.

        • Anonymous says:

          I did. By buying a home that was already built early 2000. We’ve been fixing it up when we save up enough at a time. What have you done? I’m guessing you’re in the developer sector.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Then West Bayers should have not sold their land!!

    Bout fear!

    • Anonymous says:

      Baya’s would sell you breeze

      • Anonymous says:

        Particularly if it were filled with ganja smoke!

        • Love Barkers says:

          I hope the group will concentrate on acquiring as much of the properties as possible for a natural park. Without undeveloped Barkers properties, many of the birds we see now and crabs will become extinct. We also need to remove the the Scavalla and Australian pines from the Cayman Islands.

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