DIANE PHILLIPS: Montagu madness, yes, I have a right to be angry


Diane Phillips

THOUGH I don’t think I am alone in noticing how cluttered Montagu foreshore is looking, I do claim rights to my anger. In 2010, I dedicated the better part of a year chairing a steering committee for the redevelopment of Montagu. It was a role requested by then- Montagu constituency MP Loretta Butler-Turner.

I, along with a few committee members, including the hard-working Richard Adderley and the late Clay Saunders, spent endless hours at the task. Others, including my husband Larry and Larry Roberts, stood by the roadside counting cars, taping traffic snarls that the then-existing system caused with trailers reversing onto East Bay Street and causing back-ups that extended beyond Harbour Bay.

I personally interviewed every fisherman on the ramp and their ‘assistants’ and those assistants’ assistants, documenting all sub-levels of the disorganised, organised multi-level strata of economic activity squeezed into an area far too small to contain it. We held packed town hall meetings where we needed security. I faced strife as fishermen feared being removed.

When all the research was done and the studies collected and the goals and recommendations agreed, I drafted a 40-page report that was as thorough as any report that consultants would have been paid for.

And I did it all for free.

The introduction to that report told the tale. I called that intro ‘Montagu Moments, A Short Diary.’ It was accompanied by appalling photos of dead fish covered with flies being sold to an unsuspecting public and I offered these words: “It is 2:45 on a Sunday afternoon. A man stands ankle deep in a puddle of brown water, about the colour of coffee with a hint of cream. He is bending over, cleaning conch. I watch in horror as he dips his bare hands in the filthy water lifting one conch shell after another, breaking it with a conch hammer, pulling the muscle away from the shell, dipping the meat back into the brown water as he skinned it. I knew what was in that puddle he stood in…”

There was more and it was just as revolting. The old Montagu ramp had no running water. Tables were squished together. Tempers flared, knives flashed, trash was everywhere, boat operators hung on to the hull of a boat they were launching or hauling so as not to slide down the slimy ramp. And yet no one wanted to leave this narrow ramp east of where the current market lies, despite how dangerous and unfit for business it was. This was how the fishermen and those who depended upon the catch made their living. Health and sanitation be damned.

The Montagu report detailed background, committee formation, members, summary findings of physical observer teams, public meetings, questionnaire and results, goals and options, recommendations and an addenda that included coastal engineering reports that I had negotiated free of charge to the government, including an EDSA study and a report by Currie Sowards Aguila Architects. It included a proposal for the Bahamas Olympic Sailing Association.

The report was presented to various ministers of government and then to the full Cabinet and to Parliament that year. I never once asked for recognition or appreciation – I was just so grateful that most of the recommendations were accepted and that Atlantis footed the bill of about $1m. I am not sure they ever got the credit they deserved. It was a politically hot season and because I stay as far from partisan politics as possible and just focus on progress and policy, I stayed clear of negotiations behind the scene to take Montagu from dump to desirable destination.

And that it is.

What you see now is a fish market spread out over a paved area with rest rooms and running water, an expanded beach with protected swimming areas and jetties to encourage aggregation of sand, plus a popular fish, crawfish and conch salad marketplace that has become not only a regular stop for locals but a favourite Instagrammable moment for visitors on tours of the island. All of it is a result of an MP’s determination and the work and funding that followed.

Today, there is adequate parking (except on holidays or during special events) for the public to enjoy the beach at Montagu and except when jet skis get too close, the wide and lengthy stretch of sand and sea is accessible and safe for all. Comparing what exists with the nightmare that preceded it is like comparing a manual typewriter with a PC. You can produce words on both but only one makes sense in a fast-paced world.

But Montagu’s desirability in its new incarnation is being slowly eroded. The sand fences that protect the beach have fallen apart. The benches need to be repaired. But the worst is the smorgasbord of signage.

When I see a bunch of signs cluttering Montagu foreshore, changing the uninterrupted view of the waters of Montagu Bay, doggone right I have a right to be angry. At last count this week, there were eight obtrusive, commercial signs, not including those identifying the site or the companies that contribute to maintaining it.

You won’t see eye pollution and land desecration like that in Ocean Club Estates, Lyford Cay, Old Fort Bay or Albany where people take pride in their surroundings and in case someone doesn’t, there are rules to remind them they must.

Maybe folks who manage those communities understand what those who allow the sprawling signage across Nassau do not – that unwanted and uncontrolled signage is pollution as surely as is throwing trash out the car window. Trash at least can be collected without impacting property value or the right to a view that revives the spirit and reminds you why you love living in a place where you see the water every day of the year.




ON MARCH 8, International Women’s Day, two-time Olympic gold medallist and world champion sprinter Pauline Davis, will be at Goodman’s Bay, Nassau, to personally sign copies of her highly anticipated memoir, Running Sideways, The Olympic Champion Who made Track and Field History.

The book, as told to author Jeff Todd, and with a foreword by World Athletics President Lord Sebastian Coe, is a compelling tale of heroism and grit in the face of diversity that included a nine-year wait for the awarding of a rightful Olympic gold. Pauline shares intimate details of incidents and moments that would make your spine crawl and others that shout joy.

She’s been mistaken for a terrorist with her head banged against a wall as she was detained on her way to a meet in France. She’s been the victim of a racial slur spelled out in rose petals at a global gathering and she’s been celebrated in a way that is still unfolding and shall last a lifetime.

Pauline will be at Goodman’s Bay from 3 to 6 pm.


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