By DIANE PHILLIPS
Out in the middle of the island mostly hidden from view is one of The Bahamas’ greatest treasures. It’s called Lake Killarney and today it is under threat from development that is encroaching on its banks with buyers building down into the swampy marshes and destroying mangroves by the hundreds with careless abandon.
There is an irony to this. Those who love and appreciate nature enough to want to live on the lake are the very people who are threatening its future. They are also risking their own by tearing down the mangroves that help to keep their land from sliding into the water, keeping the lake at bay and intact. Destroying the mangroves that support and line the edge of the lake is like making a bowl of Jell-O and expecting it to stand upright without the bowl.
First, for anyone who does not know exactly where Lake Killarney is, it’s so large that it extends off Blake Road almost to Carmichael, almost reaches Fire Trail Road from South Westridge and even Love Beach would not be too far a stretch if you were mapping it.
For most Bahamians, Lake Killarney is that handsome stretch of water populated by mangrove-made cays that you fly over when you depart Nassau and look down. “Hmm, wonder where that is?” I’ve heard people mutter and I am never sure whether to tell them the full story because I don’t know whether they will really appreciate it.
To truly appreciate Lake Killarney, you have to see it at sunrise when the dark of night and the grey of morning give way to a golden light from the east. At full moon, you can see the moon set as the sun rises and there is not a building in sight. I know of no place else on New Providence that is quite the same.
Yet much of what makes Lake Killarney so special is what is under threat. The natural balance that keeps its marine life alive is dependent upon the mangroves that line the shores and the mangrove cays dotted here and there. Although scientists may describe it differently, it sits like a body of water hugged by wetlands that produced mini-wetlands in the middle of its belly.
At its deepest, Lake Killarney is roughly 10 feet. Most of the lake is shallow, between one and three feet deep.
The level rises and falls with the seasons, during drought or extended dry weather, much of its muddy bottom is exposed and it is only the mangroves with their tangled maze of water-soaked roots and overhanging shade that protects juvenile fish, provides a nesting place for coots and duck along with food and sustenance for bird life. For herons and egrets the cover of the mangrove is a security blanket, allowing them to build nests in the safety of its protective arms, much like humans in a dangerous neighbourhood breathing a sigh of relief when they hear the clink of the last padlock on the door.
In an age of rapid development all around the lake and its ring of mangroves and mangrove cays are a safe haven, a nursery for juvenile marine life.
Because it is so well-hidden from view, Lake Killarney has remained relatively pristine, a prize yet to be abused. There are those who occasionally row or kayak on the lake. Mostly, the rest of us in New Providence are dependent upon the resource reservoir for much of the clean air we breathe.
Without the lake in our midst, our air would not have the quality it does, our eco-system would be less well-balanced and our bird life would likely be reduced. Because their tangled roots collect nature’s debris, mangroves eventually form land.
With houses now popping up, what is the path of responsible development?
Where will all the raw sewerage go?
Is there a city pumping system sufficient to handle the waste?
Who will monitor sewerage disposal? What will happen to the foundations of these new builds as marshland returns to its normal state, a process that will be sped up by the loss of mangroves that act almost like a seawall?
What happens when the rainy season comes and the shallow lake, not much deeper than your forearm in many spots, floods and spills over without mangroves to act as a barrier?
We the public have to assist with our eyes and ears if we want to protect that which Nature gave so generously and which a single dredge can take away in a moment.
Go ahead, homeowners. Build your homes. But leave the mangroves right where they are. You need them even if you don’t know it now.
Pretty in pink and then some
There are trees that during full bloom are so stunning they deserve to be registered in the Bahamas haute couture register of natural native culture. Among them are the two poui trees on Eastern Road, one in front of the Daquiri estate and the other just east of Fox Hill Road on the northern side, stars deserving Oscars for their performance.
At other times of the year, the Royal Poinciana dressed in deep orange or red is a sight to behold. One poinciana, half yellow, half red, on the grounds of St. Andrew’s school in Yamacraw is a wonder.
And who can even imagine the Fox Hill community without the majestic silk cotton trees that provide canopy?
Yes, there are trees that during full bloom are stunning and the question remains, who is protecting them to make sure someone tired of raking doesn’t decide one day they could live without the extra gardening?
If we can give awards for sports, musical performances, spelling competitions, providing extraordinary service or just lasting at a job longer than rope, isn’t it about time we recognized those trees and natural places that add such incredible richness to our lives?
Isn’t it time we honoured those who look after them, preserve and keep that beauty intact for all and sundry to enjoy?
Thank you to the folks at Daquiri and to the Pinders further east.
Thank you to all the folks in Fox Hill who appreciate their community is one of the most naturally beautiful in the country.
And thank you Mother Nature for blessing The Bahamas with such bounty and brilliance.