OPEN LETTER TO THE BAHAMAS NATIONAL TRUST:
EDITOR, The Tribune.
As we spent the past few weeks absorbed with the happenings in South Eleuthera, it appears few have taken note of a similarly disturbing deal that is taking place in our Exuma Cays Land & Sea Park. Little mention or discussion has been made of the Tribune’s article published on September 5th (or the subsequent press release by the Bahamas National Trust) that ‘details’ the questionable partnership deal that has been reached between the BNT and Albany/Nexus.
Our Exuma Park is special – it is the oldest land and sea park in the world; and the world's first protected area of its kind. The Park is an essential part of the Exumas – significant to fisheries management, tourism, and our history. As a frequent user of the park, Bahamian, and home owner in the Exuma Cays; I find it rather concerning that the BNT waited to announce the details of this questionable partnership until after it was first uncovered and made public by the Tribune. Furthermore, in the BNT’s lackluster press release, no details were made regarding the deal itself – exactly what financial compensation the BNT would be getting, and exactly what they would be giving up. Please, Mr Carey, let the public know what value the BNT has placed on the Exuma Park; the amount for which it has been sold out to luxury developer Nexus. Additionally, please make us aware of the bidding process that took place to secure this partnership. Surely, Nexus must have beat out many qualified Bahamian owned businesses by a substantial amount before they were awarded the partnership… Or, perhaps there was no bidding process? On the BNT’s website; they proudly list ‘Integrity, Transparency, and Accountability,’ as their core values – well, it’s time to prove that.
Another area of concern is just how Albany (self proclaimed as being one of the most exclusive resort communities in the world) is going to allow the general public to access the same beach club that their high net worth guests will be using. I can’t do as much as look at Albany’s main entrance in New Providence without getting escorted away by security. Maybe I’m being pessimistic – but I don’t see it happening. Perhaps the BNT can get Albany/Nexus to confirm that the beach club will be open to the general public? Mr Carey, I get that PPPs are the way forward for National Parks, I get that this system and solution has been proven at parks in Canada and the US. But, the main difference is this – PPPs in these areas provide low impact, park promoting activities for all park users (think kayak rentals, or a scuba outfitter). While the beach club that Albany opens may not be ‘exclusive’ by definition– providing Albany-like prices within the park will almost guarantee its exclusivity to that type of crowd; which I imagine isn’t your typical park user or nature enthusiast.
The Park is finally on the uphill. From what I can tell, the new administrator and new warden have done a fantastic job in cleaning up the place. They’ve implemented and are enforcing a new fee structure –which I assume is bringing in much more revenue for the park. Let’s keep this ball rolling. Let’s continue to involve the community, enforce the park fees, and build/maintain relationships with potential donors. What kind of image are we portraying to speculative donors by laying in bed with Albany? Surely, selling out to a place like Albany will be the kiss of death for all BNT fundraising activities going forward. What kind of image is the BNT portraying by so publicly pushing to save Lighthouse Point all the while selling out their very own beautiful asset in some sort of under the table deal? Is the BNT really ready to sell out to wealthy foreign interests because they cannot fundraise just $300k per year to support one of the most pristine places on earth (a place that plays hosts to extremely wealthy private island and yacht owners)?
Share the details of this deal. Share the financial projections, share the plans for the buildings, share the costs to access the showers at the beach club. Make it all public; and don’t pretend that Nexus doesn’t already have every minor detail and finance worked out. The BNT receives $1.5million in funding from the Government; they owe transparency to the Bahamian people.
A Very Concerned Bahamian and User of the Exuma Park.
October 24, 2018.