Catch me regularly; rushing from home to Culpepper Island; there I sniff the sea air. I walk slowly towards Skeete’s Bay, stopping to roll on the grass and to listen to the sea birds squawk in unnecessary contest for the plentiful wild berries that add colour to the mostly green lush vegetation.
I stare in wonder at God’s creation … fluffy white clouds drifting peacefully across the blue sky. Exhale; inhale. Suck in as much of God’s clean fresh air as possible.
If man gets his way, his tractors will soon be ripping through the tranquillity. Investors will replace nature’s splendour with giant villas bordered by fences and no doubt, manned by an officious Tubby –the Barbadian a.k.a. for a security guard – stationed to ensure that I, an un-moneyed Barbadian keep forty yards off.
As you have heard, 50 acres somewhere along the stretch from Skeete’s Bay, St. Philip to Culpepper Island has attracted the profit-seeking eyes of investor Paul Doyle, owner of The Crane Residential Resorts. Piecing together his stories published in the print media, I’ve learnt that his Beach Houses at Culpepper will include a single storey resort; 62 residences each with a swimming pool; and, two restaurants, with 160 feet set back from the cliff edge.
I am not the only one concerned about this development; people turned up at a St. Catherine’s Club Hall meeting and give Doyle a good piece of their minds, but today everything is quietly falling into place.
Doyle conceded that he would not try to turn the government-owned fish market into a seafood restaurant. What rich arrogance!
“It makes sense for us to take it off the table. Give us time to work with the communityand I can assure everyone that nothing would go forward without a full buy-in from the community and especially from the fishermen,” Doyle said.
Meanwhile, the one-way publicity continues. Recently, I saw St. Catherine’s Primary school children posing on Doyle’s Crane Residential Resort beds. My friend, a primary school teacher quick to defend, pointed out that primary school children have a tourism project this year. But the exposure on the island’s only television station and in the country’s two main newspapers was as unnecessary as the government minister posing in the background of the TV shots. Neither helps to successfully complete the students’ tourism project.
But my journalist antenna senses this will help Doyle’s corporate image to soar, that this will aid his efforts to work with the community.
Don’t get me wrong, I can’t stop Doyle, his pockets are too deep, his connections too strong. I want officials to make objective decisions; and to give us the unbiased information so we can agitate for the changes that will make project community friendly. I don’t mean politicians, when I say officials.
Politicians visualise long term in five-year blocks; their careers hang on five-yearly votes. Let an investor say tourism backed up with a promise of jobs, and politicians will feed out of their hands, it is a hazard of the job, so leave them out for the time being. I want the project weighed with sustainable development (SD) parameters.
“Development that meets the needs of the present (generation) without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. SD is not a fixed state of harmony, but rather a process of change in which the exploitation of resources, the direction of investments, the orientation of technology and institutional change are made consistent with the future as well as present needs.” (United Nations Conference on Environment and Development definition.)
So when it comes to the Culpepper project, tell me about conserving biodiversity, the social and environmental impacts including disposal of waste. Tell me about encouraging fisher people to continue as usual on Skeete’s Bay free of imported issues.
Tell me about securing the rights of locals to have their picnics and cultural events on the beach as they do today without new neighbours exercising power that will see officials conceding to their demands in the fear of lost jobs and tourism dollars.
Tell me about the effects on future generations; the economic and the social consequences. I’ve already concluded that the teenagers of year 2020 will not have the chance to smell the salty breeze; sign their names and write their love stories on the sill grass near Skeete’s Bay nor savour the natural offerings of this rustic area, in the untamed way I did as a teen nor as I can do today.
Last week, as I scrambled down the steep, slippery terrain which provides public access to Crane Beach, I remember that I should ask the authorities to tell me about the effects of the Culpepper project on the shoreline.
I recall a recent dream in which my grandmother said that the Culpepper people’s promise of a 100-yard thoroughfare near the shoreline is a promise to a Joe-blasted-fool. She told me to visit Old Mary Bay, just a “Dwayne Smith” cricket ball throw away from Culpepper.
A few years ago, you could enter that bay but now large and small shards of broken clay pots, which stood on the cliff since Adam was a lad, have been hauled onto the beach along with large boulders, small stones and vegetation.In other words, today’s 60 feet on the coastline is likely to be inaccessible in a few years so fierce is the erosion along this eastern coast lashed by the Atlantic Ocean.
Not only is that visual evidence important but look at what the experts have been saying about the relationship between climate change, rising sea levels and erosion. If we want future generations to even gaze at Culpepper Island, we have to be proactive enough to demand more than mouth talk from developers.
Tomorrow, I will go and roll around on the lush Wiltshire’s pastures, wonder towards the island, stop to wade in the many streams as they slide care-free onto the beach. I will let the smooth pebbles that form the beach massage my feet. Perhaps I’ll take a swim out to the island. Who knows, all this may soon be off limits to me. If I roll on the grass, in future, a visitor may call the police registering her fear for the mad woman staring into the sky and exhaling.