By MORGAN ADDERLEY
Tribune Staff Reporter
OUTCRY has increased against a proposal for Lighthouse Point, Eleuthera to be developed into a cruise port, with two more activist groups worrying the planned project will have a detrimental effect on the country's natural resources.
Lighthouse Point is a 700-acre peninsula located at the southern tip of Eleuthera.
Disney Cruise Line is said to be the group behind the potential acquisition and development of the area.
Sam Duncombe, of reEarth, told The Tribune yesterday that a meeting was held in Eleuthera on August 2, during which flyers were distributed detailing Disney's interest and proposals for the area. Mrs Duncombe shared a copy of the flyer with The Tribune.
"In consultation with community leaders in South Eleuthera, who have expressed their support for the project, Disney Cruise Line is considering a second managed cruise destination in The Bahamas at Lighthouse Point," the flyer noted.
The flyer also says Disney is committed to "a significantly smaller and less dense development than what others have previously proposed for Lighthouse Point, which is currently privately owned by another developer."
Previous reports stated local real estate company Bahamas Realty had the property listed for sale. However, a representative from the company has said Bahamas Realty has never had anything to do with this property's listing.
Disney's plan includes implementing "sustainable design and building practices to have as little impact on the natural environment and (maintaining) as much of the existing landscape as possible."
The flyer also states: "Examples include the construction of an open-trestle pier with a smaller impact on natural ocean currents that requires minimal, if any dredging, and the potential use of a stilt-type design for walkways and structures that would have a smaller impact on the land."
According to the flyer, more than 100 acres of the property will be allocated for conservation and public use, including "significant beachfront acreage", and the cruise line has "proposed providing an access road and amenities".
"Disney Cruise Line will also work with the community to structure visitation to the broader property and its historic sites by Bahamians," the flyer said.
Mrs Duncombe said the information in the flyer was presented in the meeting by a representative of the cruise line.
She expressed serious concern about the impact this proposal will have on the environment and said Lighthouse Point should instead be turned into a national park, as has been suggested by the One Eleuthera Foundation.
The Bahamas National Trust (BNT) announced its support for such an endeavour in a statement released on Thursday.
"One Eleuthera is basically the vehicle behind trying to save Lighthouse Point, to purchase it, and to turn it into a natural or national park that would be enjoyed by everybody," Mrs Duncombe said.
The activist added Disney's development would significantly impede Bahamians' access and ability to enjoy the "spiritual splendour" of the "stunning beautiful" spot.
Describing Lighthouse Point as "the crown jewel of Eleuthera," Mrs Duncombe said it features over 200 bird species, salt ponds, coral reefs, and a lighthouse.
She added in central Eleuthera, One Eleuthera has been helping the community by creating jobs, giving small grants to help people start businesses, and helping locals develop business plans.
"What One Eleuthera is essentially trying to do is create the same kinds of opportunities in southern Eleuthera, so all those southern communities will benefit by having international and national attention focused on Lighthouse Point to continue to bring travellers (there).
"(Additionally) those communities are going to start to feel the benefits of people traveling through there," she added. "So that will be just one way that keeping Lighthouse Point accessible to the public is going to help those communities."
Mrs Duncombe admitted there are some locals who are in support of Disney's development, saying the whole issue is creating "a lot of anxiety" in south Eleuthera.
"And I think part of the reason for that is for 50 years, we've had the same model of development, and I use that 'development' word very loosely, that destroys our land, denies us access to our land, and does not empower people in the sense of ownership."
Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF) released a statement on Friday also criticising cruise port development of Lighthouse Point and calling for it to instead become a protected area.
"BREEF opposes the Disney proposal to convert this pristine wilderness at the southernmost tip of the island to a cruise ship port, and calls on Bahamians to reject this plan," the group said.
"This proposed cruise ship port development would result in major negative environmental impacts and restricted access for Bahamians and air-arrival visitors to one of the most iconic sites of natural beauty, biodiversity and cultural heritage of land and sea. Lighthouse Point is a pristine site of local and national importance and we must protect it."
The statement suggested "other sustainable alternatives" that will "allow traditional activities and access, provide more economic benefits to the communities of South Eleuthera, and inspire local entrepreneurship" be implemented instead.
A petition on change.org to save Lighthouse Point had more than 16,800 signatures up to press time.
Requests for responses from the ministers of environment and tourism were unanswered up to press time. Marine Resources and Agriculture Minister Michael Pintard declined to speak on the matter.