By DIANE PHILLIPS
Some things are perfect just the way they are, even when we don’t understand why they are the way they are.
Look at the concept of balance, for instance. Humans are more secure when our big feet are planted firmly on the ground. A bird with little tiny claws will find the tallest tree and perch on the top branch comfortably when it rustles in the wind and the branch wobbles. The human wants security and stability. The bird wants visibility to guard against prey and spot food. It would be foolhardy to try to change either because each was created to be perfect in its own right.
Just like Lighthouse Point in Eleuthera.
With its strange, almost eerie beauty, its craggy cliffs and extravagant double stretch of half-moon beach and bay, it is so tragic that it is at the centre of a tug-of-war. The Bahamas National Trust wants it to become a national park. A cruise line, reportedly Disney, wants it for their passengers. No one can blame either entity, but there is a clear answer as to who the rightful winner of this battle is - Lighthouse Beach and Lighthouse Point belong to the Bahamian people who deserve to have unfettered access to it for eternity.
And that means it should become a national park. BNT’s proposal to purchase the privately-owned land dates back to 2013, long before a cruise line set its sights on the space. BNT has continued to reaffirm its desire to preserve and protect this piece of perfection at the southern tip of Eleuthera.
“Lighthouse Point is one of the most beautiful and unspoiled natural places in our country,” the BNT writes. “The area contains diverse and important terrestrial and marine ecologies including over 200 bird species and four endemic plant species. The interior wetland known as Big Pond is a rare hyper – saline water habitat of high scientific value.
“The BNT feels strongly that Lighthouse Point should not be lost to a Cruise Port development…BNT’s position is clear, Lighthouse Point should not receive approvals for large scale development, but should be preserved as a model for sustainable development in The Bahamas.”
BNT is not alone. One Eleuthera Foundation has been working tirelessly to protect and preserve the area. Save The Bays has declared its support for preservation. People who never before pasted a banner on their vehicles are driving around with the Save Lighthouse Point decals. The Eleuthera Land Conservatory is urging preservation.
On top of all that, a change.org petition calling for preservation and public access garnered 16,000 signatures in record time for a national cause. “The biodiversity of the ecosystem and the hugely important cultural and historic resources are irreplaceable and should be preserved for the enjoyment and education of the entire community and not just for a select few,” the petition states.
One Eleuthera Foundation President Shaun Ingraham says the organization is not opposed to development, but that it must be sustainable, appropriate in carbon footprint without stressing the fragile environment.
Begging for the preservation of perfection is not an anti-cruise line position. Far from it, I believe the cruise industry deserves far better treatment than it gets in The Bahamas, particularly in Nassau where the cruise port is what one Cabinet minister recently called “a d----- dump.” He said we should be ashamed of ourselves. And indeed we should. We invite more than four million cruise passengers a year to see the beautiful Bahamas and we treat them to an experience at Prince George Wharf that should make every one of us shudder.
That the cruise port in Nassau is in desperate need of redevelopment should not come as a surprise. Stakeholders have been decrying its poor condition for years. Disembarking from the spotless cabins and public spaces of the cruise ship on to the area between East Street and Charlotte Street is like descending into a heated chaotic cauldron of confusion. Thousands descend daily into that space with a look of anxiety or outright being lost. Without directional signage or information posted, passengers have no idea where to turn. The walk from the farthest dock north must be close to or more than a quarter mile in the broiling sun. If they survived that trek and find themselves in need of a rest room, the smartest thing they can do is pray for strong bladder control.
No one remembers exactly when the defunct welcome centre welcomed its last guest. Watching the mass morass every day as ship after ship disgorges up to 4,000 passengers at a time should foster national embarrassment.
Cruise destinations like Nassau should have it made. We collect head tax on every passenger. We do not have to pay for advertising to lure visitors. The cruise lines do that work for us and they give us the opportunity to convert their passengers into stay over visitors for a subsequent vacation or business trip.
It is our own fault that only about 80 percent percent get off the ship and the conversion rate to stay over visitors is not higher. John Honeywell, the late editor of World Cruise Magazine told The Tribune exactly that last year when asked what he did when a ship he was on arrived at Nassau. “Stay on board,” he said.
We invite millions of cruise passengers to our home, our capital city and we show them a back door that says you are not worth the effort it takes to provide you with a satisfactory experience. Then we have the nerve to complain they do not spend enough. If they spend it elsewhere, we have to ask ourselves why Nassau ranks so low in cruise visitor spend and satisfaction and draw the obvious conclusion the two are linked.
So we understand why a cruise line like Disney wants a place that is pure and tranquil and bathed in beauty. But Lighthouse Point is not the right choice. Lighthouse Point must be preserved for the public.
There are really two issues at stake in the discussion about Lighthouse Point. The first is why cruise lines seek experiences for their passengers outside Nassau. Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar has pledged the government would address conditions at the port, hinting that it would consider a public private partnership involving Bahamians. There is a perfect solution to that as well, including a publicly-held management company with a proven record and a consortium from the cruise industry which has everything to gain for showing its passengers a better experience in The Bahamas.
The second issue is about Lighthouse Point which many reviewers on TripAdvisor have called the most beautiful beach in The Bahamas, despite the difficulty reaching it. When the natural state offers such extraordinary beauty and that physical environment is also scientifically significant in rare species and rich in historical significance, we must pay it the respect it deserves.
Some areas are appropriate for mass market development; others simply are not. The cruise lines should be encouraged to explore areas closer to Nassau or in Grand Bahama where there is adequate space and infrastructure for their passengers to enjoy a beach experience in addition to shopping and tasting the culture, music, art and food of The Bahamas.
As for the future of Lighthouse Point – let perfection be. There are more than 16,000 reasons why and each one of those has a name.