By MORGAN ADDERLEY
Tribune Staff Reporter
THREE Central Eleuthera High School students have taken on the mantle of activism as they join scores of environmentalists in the fight to prevent Lighthouse Point, Eleuthera from being developed into a cruise port.
Eleventh grade students Wadainya Weinburger, 16, Franchesca Hanna, 16, and Kristman Moss, 15, sat down with The Tribune yesterday during a visit to Nassau to discuss their hopes for Lighthouse Point and why they want it to be more than a "playground for the wealthy".
Renowned for its beauty, Lighthouse Point is a privately owned 700-acre peninsula at the southern tip of Eleuthera.
Earlier this month, the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation confirmed that Disney Cruise Lines made presentation to the Chamber regarding the company's proposal to develop a destination at the site.
In March, the students visited the site with classmates. "Words can't explain the way it felt when we were there," Wadainya said, recounting the beauty of the ponds, foliage, engraved rocks, sand, and sea. "It just was jaw-dropping, amazing, gorgeous."
"(It felt) like our heart and our soul automatically connected with nature," Franchesca added.
In contrast, Franchesca said she was "heartbroken" when she learned of the Disney proposal.
Like most teenagers, the students expressed great affection for the Walt Disney Company, its amusement parks, and its merchandise. However, they were concerned about Lighthouse Point being barricaded from locals, the environmental impact of another cruise port on their island, the sustainability of the endeavour, and whether they will be able to share Lighthouse Point with their own future children.
"We don't want to discriminate (against) Disney," Wadainya said. "We love Disney, you know -- the movies and everything, it's very exciting. And we love their theme of Disney in the States.
"But when you come to an island, especially the island of freedom, we have to understand that we have our rights and the freedom to roam about Eleuthera and visit the different beaches on the island to see how amazing it is and how it uplifts the people in the community.
"And we're trying to speak on it because we don't want it to be (broken) down, destroyed. Because Disney, they're going to destroy the environment and everything else that is there to build what they have to build," she continued.
"So, yes there are going to be jobs, but is everybody going to be able to go there? That's a definite no. The people of the community are going to be shut off and we want it to be open to the people. Also, we want to give them jobs."
She added creating sustainable jobs is a goal of the One Eleuthera Foundation, one of the organisations at the forefront of the mission to save Lighthouse Point from commercial development.
Along with the Bahamas National Trust, sustainable alternatives One Eleuthera is proposing for the site development include a national park component, a research facility, and a small eco-lodge.
Kristman said his dream is for Lighthouse Point to be accessible for future generations of Bahamians, and not become a "memory".
"(My dream is) to be able to share it with the future generations," he said. "(For it) to stay with the Bahamian people who inhabit the land, not to any foreigner who goes and comes as they (please). Because too many times we have to live off of a memory -- somebody before us remembers what it (was) like, but we don't know what it's like… And we can't experience it fully.
"If you sell Lighthouse Point to Disney, then they make a profit but we don't.
"What One Eleuthera is proposing is we're going to keep our property."
The students excitedly described how this experience has been their first foray into activism.
"This opportunity helped me to find my voice," Franchesca said. "I didn't know I had this voice to speak up (with)…If it could happen for me, it could happen for anyone else.
"Lighthouse Beach definitely helped me find myself," she said. "If it stays with One Eleuthera (OE), it could help many other young people and they could see (why) we fight for this."
She said even if OE loses their fight, she'll know they did their best and the outcome was simply "beyond their control".
"We don't want to put all this work in for us to leave," Kristman added. Regarding Lighthouse Point itself, Wadainya said: "You just have to go and experience it so that you could feel the way that we feel. It's a treasure to everyone when you go there."