The Only Argument Against A National Park At Graeme Hall Is Short-Term Greed
Good Morning Folks!
Although the past two weeks have seen the largest blog traffic numbers ever for Barbados Free Press, there have been a couple of stories that we could have (and should have) paid more attention to.
One of these stories is the push to see the establishment of a National Park at Graeme Hall – and why a few folks might be willing to sabotage Barbados’ largest remaining natural area out of simple greed.
Waterpark Investors Are Just One Group Of Plotters
The Caribbean Splash Waterpark investors are just one group who prefer money now to providing a lasting legacy for future generations – a legacy that would also provide Barbados with a much needed showpiece to attract sustainable eco-tourism. There are many others who look at the natural beauty of the Graeme Hall area and think only about money.
Barbados Needs A National Park At Graeme Hall – For The Longterm Future Of Our Nation
We hammer home this point all the time…
There are hundreds of tourist destinations that boast the same sun, sand and surf as Barbados. Many are, admittedly, more beautiful than our island. (Think of some of our neighbours who can boast of natural attractions that we lack… rainforest, waterfalls, mountains). What sets Barbados apart is culture and safety – but those qualities only go so far.
Barbados desperately needs a major natural showpiece to act as a tourist draw and featured attraction – and a National Park at Graeme Hall is our last best chance.
Who Will Win The Graeme Hall Fight – Barbados Or The Money Makers?
The vast majority of citizens and visitors on this island want to see our largest natural area preserved.
There are some selfish folks though, who would like to pave all around the Graeme Hall bird sanctuary and make tons of money.
As we join thousands of other Bajans who are fighting for a National Park, we also pray for our Prime Minister and all our elected and appointed government officials – that God will give them the wisdom and the strength to resist the very powerful money cartels that have their eyes on short-term profits instead of what is best for our country and our children.
Questions & Answers About Graeme Hall National Park
Friends, we received the following article this morning and I’m going to post it “as is”. I am late for work (again) – so for now I’ll post it without bolding the questions and doing other formating to make it easier to read. I’ll try to fix it tonight before bed.
Thanks for your understanding.
Robert [I done it 4 u – shona]
Graeme Hall National Park
Questions and Answers
Is the proposed National Park needed for the South Coast?
Yes. Looking at a satellite picture of the South Coast, one can see that the Graeme Hall site is the only significant green space available between Bridgetown and the airport. It is an area that would offer recreational opportunities in a safe and tranquil environment, a place where a child could ride a bicycle without fear of traffic, and where families can gather for picnics, walks, recreational fishing, exercise, and other activities. Graeme Hall National Park would be a legacy for our children, and our children’s children. Most of the lands within the proposed National Park already belong to the people of Barbados – declaring the National Park will protect these lands for the citizens of Barbados forever. Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary (GHNS) would be part of the National Park.
Graeme Hall National Park would also provide environmental buffers currently lacking in the existing 81-acre RAMSAR (Convention on Wetlands) area, and would legally protect the last mangrove forest, the last major wetland, the largest inland lake, and the most concentrated biodiversity in Barbados.
Do the people of Barbados want the National Park?
Yes. As of January 5, 2007, over 4,500 Barbadian citizens have signed a Petition asking the Government of Barbados to create Graeme Hall National Park. Those who sign are saying that they want to preserve the legacy at Graeme Hall in perpetuity, and that they want a safe place to go on the South Coast for rest and relaxation.
It is a mandate from the People of Barbados, a mandate that is growing in strength. More people sign this Petition every day.
Should we allow the last remaining green space on the South Coast to be further reduced in size by building additional housing and commercial ventures?
No. The Friends of Graeme Hall, and a growing number of citizens throughout Barbados believe it is time to make a stand, and do what we can to save the last remaining green space and sensitive environmental lands on the South Coast.
Housing and commercial development is important, but the great nations of the world do not focus on these things exclusively.
New York’s forefathers could have developed Central Park, before the City became fully developed, but they didn’t. They knew that the City would grow, and that in addition to a prosperous economy, environmental preservation, parks, museums, libraries and other cultural and recreational venues would be needed to make the City truly great.
The fact is that the South Coast has the highest density urban landscape in all of Barbados, without a significant regional public park area. While it is true that the Graeme Hall Swamp is being preserved under the RAMSAR agreement, this area is generally inaccessible to the public because it is wetland. More upland (dry) land is needed to serve the recreational needs of those who live on the South Coast.
The significance of the proposed Graeme Hall National Park to the South Coast and Barbados must not be underestimated. The National Park would define the South Coast in the same way Central Park defines New York City. Graeme Hall National Park is an extraordinary opportunity to make a vision of future Barbados come true in our lifetimes, to benefit our children, and our children’s children.
Would the recreational areas, such as the bicycle trails, exercise stations and picnic areas of the new National Park outside of the Nature Sanctuary be free to the public?
Who are the Friends of Graeme Hall?
The Friends of Graeme Hall (FOGH) is a grassroots, nonprofit, volunteer citizens group that supports the proposal to create a 240 acre National Park at Graeme Hall. This proposal has attracted considerable public support not only from the residents of Graeme Hall and surrounding districts, but from all across the country.
So far, the Petition in support of creating Graeme Hall National Park has attracted in excess of 4,500 signatures, and is still growing.
Who, and what, is Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary?
Owned by Mr. Peter Allard, Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary (GHNS) is a privately funded organization that owns 34.25 acres of prime wetlands within the boundaries of the proposed 240 acre Graeme Hall National Park. GHNS operates a community and visitor centre with a boardwalk, large bird aviaries, environmental education facilities, and other community activity venues.
Who are the main partners who are responsible for the Graeme Hall National Park Initiative?
The Graeme Hall National Park Initiative relies on three partners for creation, project development, and operations:
The Government of Barbados (provider of legal protections, management, oversight)
The Friends of Graeme Hall (citizens oversight and local/international fundraising partner)
The Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary (private-sector donor and management partner)
The primary objective is for all partners to agree that creation of the National Park is an opportunity to create a legacy for the people of Barbados, to work together to establish legal protections, budgets and a work plan.
Should the Government of Barbados lead the legal formation of Graeme Hall National Park?
Yes. The majority of the land at Graeme Hall is owned by the people of Barbados, and is not a private project that requires a private-sector application to the Chief Town Planner.
Instead, formation of Graeme Hall National Park must be led by the Government of Barbados, as it is the only legal entity that can facilitate permanent legal protection of the land through formal declaration of the National Park. To assist this process, FOGH and GHNS have formally offered financial, technical and management resources to design, build and operate the environmental and recreational aspects of the new Park.
Does the National Physical Development Plan define use for the Graeme Hall site?
Yes. Unfortunately, since 1988 the National Physical Development Plan has steadily eroded the original allocation of protected lands within the proposed 240 acre Graeme Hall National Park from open space to largely commercial and residential. The original National Physical Development Plan preserved the majority of the area within the proposed Graeme Hall National Park, but in recent years this area has been constricted to just 81 acres of wetlands, with no buffers. The current intent by Government appears to increase commercial and residential density within the proposed 240 acre National Park. The Caribbean Splash Waterpark proposal was one such attempt.
Does the National Physical Development Plan need to be amended in regard to the Graeme Hall National Park initiative, and in regard to appropriate land use requirements at Graeme Hall?
Yes. The current land use designations by the published 2003 National Physical Development Plan are in direct conflict with, or contrary to, the recommendations of the original National Physical Development Plan(s) since 1988, and in conflict with, or contrary to, nearly all scientific, tourism and related studies performed at Graeme Hall since 1985, including the US$800,000 ARA Consulting Group Study in 1997. At the present time, FOGH is preparing an analysis of Graeme Hall land use policy, as well an inherent conflicts within and between the published National Physical Development Plans.
Has a plan been developed for the site?
Yes. The Ministry of Energy and Environment has been developing a Master Plan for Graeme Hall, and in September 2006, FOGH submitted a Reference Guide to supplement the development of the Master Plan. This Reference Guide, including maps, combined with a subsequent December 2006 proposal to Prime Minister Owen Arthur, outlines a specific plan to declare, finance, improve and operate the Graeme Hall National Park using public and private resources. The Guide, and maps, can be found at http://www.graemehallnationalpark.org.
Is it true that the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary has offered to donate most of its land to the new National Park if the Government of Barbados declares the 240-acre Graeme Hall National Park?
Yes. The Sanctuary owns 34.25 acres, and has offered to donate 25 acres. As some of the most pristine and biodiverse lands on the island, the land includes the largest inland lake and the largest mangrove forest in Barbados.. A map showing the proposed boundaries of the parcel can be found at http://www.graemehallnationalpark.org under Media Downloads.
Is the Government of Barbados under a deadline to accept the GHNS land donation offer?
No. Contrary to a recent article in The Advocate, the formal letter of proposal to the Government of Barbados respectfully requests that the 25-acre land donation offer by GHNS to the proposed National Park be considered and resolved before March 1, 2007. The reason: There are significant fiscal and tax consequences (FY2006-07) to Mr. Peter Allard, owner of the Sanctuary, if the donation is accepted after this date. The generous nature of this offer justifies the request for consideration by March 1, 2007, as a matter of courtesy to Mr. Allard. However, given the potential benefit to the people of Barbados, it is not a deadline.
In addition to the proposed donation by the Sanctuary, what other support is being offered to Government?
If the National Park initiative is a commitment that the Government of Barbados will adopt, the Friends of Graeme Hall will initiate a Bds. $6,000,000 capital campaign from local and private international donors to match public international grant funding to pay for recreational infrastructure improvements. All monies raised will be allocated to the Park – fundraising overhead costs will be underwritten by the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary.
Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary and the Friends of Graeme Hall will assist the Government of Barbados with professional grant development and related technical services to help maximise funding from foreign agencies, individuals, and foundations. These funds will be allocated to National Park infrastructure development, and related stormwater and emergency wastewater containment projects that would benefit the South Coast, as outlined in the Reference Documents at http://www.graemehallnationalpark.org.
The Friends of Graeme Hall and Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary will provide support for professional park design and development and will provide subsequent management services to the Government of Barbados for the new bioreserve and recreational/community elements of the new National Park. Both Partners are committed to the highest quality of management, as reflected in the existing facilities at the Sanctuary, and will carry this commitment forward to the new National Park.
Fundraising for improvements for a National Park is an unusual role for the Friends of Graeme Hall and the Sanctuary, and one that has encouraged both organizations to examine their priorities very carefully. Rigorous examination of these priorities confirms the mission: The RAMSAR wetland site at Graeme Hall, plus its upland agricultural buffers, is arguably the most significant biodiversity and agricultural centre on the island, and in need of formal legal protections, in perpetuity, and requires help from the private and NGO sectors. In addition the recreational and educational needs of the South Coast need significant open space.
Where will money come from for the National Park?
Final budgets have not been formally defined between the Partners as of January 15, 2007, however, a pro-forma budget was submitted in December, 2006 to the Government of Barbados that outlines scope of work and potential fund sources.
Since most of the land already belongs to the people of Barbados and Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary has indicated its willingness to be incorporated into, and assist with, the development and operation of the Park, much of the development cost for recreational improvements will be financed with grants and bequests from local and international donors. Development costs associated with the recreational fishing, agricultural, architectural and civil engineering solutions for wastewater and stormwater are eligible for available funding from the United Nations Development Programme, Global Environmental Facility of the World Bank, European Union, and other sources. The Graeme Hall National Park project includes in-kind capital investment within the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary (this will be taken into consideration by grant funders). Lands within the proposed National Park, generally west of the Sanctuary lands but not owned by the people of Barbados or by the Sanctuary require a negotiated settlement for incorporation into the National Park. Most of these private lands are already within the RAMSAR site designation, and the Graeme Hall 100-year floodplain.
Potential operational support for the National Park would come from special events and programmes, support from the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary and other private partners, the Government of Barbados, and, if approved, from eventual World Heritage Site annual operations funding.