By MORGAN ADDERLEY
Tribune Staff Reporter
ONE Eleuthera Foundation President and CEO Shaun Ingraham yesterday warned an exclusive development at Lighthouse Point will cut circulation of ground traffic into South Eleuthera, causing further economic harm to a community already "suffering enough right now".
Mr Ingraham also discussed OE's shared vision for Lighthouse Point, a proposal which will make use of zones to stimulate the local economy while also protecting the area.
Lighthouse Point is a 700-acre peninsula located at the southern tip of Eleuthera. Last week, Disney Cruise Lines made a presentation to the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC) regarding the company's proposal to develop a destination at the site.
OE, a non-profit organisation, is among groups such as the Bahamas National Trust and reEarth that are calling for the government to protect Lighthouse Point from commercial development.
As a member of the BCCEC, Mr Ingraham said OE was informed when the Chamber was meeting with Disney. He added the Chamber will afford OE "the same privilege" to present its plans and ideas for the site. Although an official date for the meeting has yet to be set, Mr Ingraham noted it could be as early as next week.
Last week, Tourism Minister Dionisio D'Aguilar said although the Lighthouse Point property is privately owned, the government will not sanction the commercial development of the actual lighthouse site or the surrounding beach.
However, he said the debate is continuing as to whether the entire property will be deemed "off-limits" for commercial development or if the government will allow a portion of it to be developed.
When asked about these remarks, Mr Ingraham echoed sentiments made by BNT executive director Eric Carey. Last week, Mr Carey said while he commends the minister's statement, the property "is larger than just some tiny little space" and the whole area should instead be preserved for more sustainable development and sustainable long-term jobs.
Mr Ingraham told The Tribune: "It was great news for us, excellent news. (OE) really welcomes that. We saw the government recognising the uniqueness of the spot…the ecological diversity."
He added OE saw Mr D'Aguilar's statement as the government saying, "this national treasure shouldn't be touched."
When asked if he is calling for that same protection to be expanded to all 700-acres, Mr Ingraham said OE's goal is for the entire property to be divided into zones.
"All of it would be zoned, according to the shared vision," he said.
"We are proposing three distinctive zones. Zone C would be a totally preservation model, is what the shared vision is calling for. And Zone B is an economic development model - so you can have an eco-resort, scientific research centre, maybe a guide shop.
"And Zone A is what we're calling a gateway community. Zone A is really (where) we think most of the energy and development should be put into identifying…historic buildings, but also helping local business people to strengthen (and promote) their businesses."
Mr Ingraham noted significant development would happen in the surrounding communities.
"We want the local people to own the business… national parks are the magnets -- they pull people into an area. Development don't happen in the park per se, it happens in the gateway communities up to the park. There are hotels, there are restaurants…before you get into the park itself."
He added Lighthouse Point ranks as one of the top places to visit in Eleuthera, after the Glass Window Bridge and Preacher's Cave.
"So if that's cut off by any exclusive development at the end, that means you cut circulation of ground traffic into the southern community. And the south is suffering enough now, we don't need no more circulation cuts. We need something that stimulates more traffic.
"And we feel if the road was properly fixed, more people would come and see it… more people coming in and out, traffic would pick up in the community."
Mr Ingraham said this would lead to an economic boom in itself, with visitors stopping to make purchases. The direct beneficial owners would be local business owners.
"OE is setting up a development fund that local entrepreneurs can access. We've also incubated a credit union, we have a training centre," he said. "So for the last ten years since we've started Lighthouse, we've basically been implementing the shared vision."
Mr Ingraham said these initiatives were undertaken "on the premise that Lighthouse would remain open, so it would be a magnet to pull people into the south. And if you take that out, there's really nothing else.
"So it's really important that that site remain open to the general public."
Last week, Mr Carey said sustainable alternatives for the site's development include a research facility, small eco-lodge, and a national park component. The jobs provided by these initiatives could rival the numbers of those provided by a cruise ship port, he added.