Harry Roberts Says Goodbye To Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary… Hello Banks Beer! (Can’t be all bad)

Graeme Hall Wetlands To Be Developed By DLP Campaign Funder CLICO & Leroy Paris

Graeme Hall Wetlands To Be Developed By DLP Campaign Funder CLICO & Leroy Paris

Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary, one of Barbados’ premier natural treasures and tourist destinations, is shut down and going to waste due to the corrupt relationship between government elites and their land developer friends. Among the hundred or so employees leaving is sanctuary manager Harry Roberts. We received this press release from the sanctuary a week ago, but didn’t have the chance to publish it so we’ll do that now.

Our thanks to Mr. Roberts for the magnificent job he and his friends did in trying to save the last green space between the airport and the city, and we wish him well with his new job at Banks. (Yes, Clive is jealous!)

Enjoy the last mangrove forest on the island while you can folks, because Prime Minister David Thompson and his government changed the law so that the wetlands at Graeme Hall can be developed by friends of the government. (KA-CHING!!! $$)

For some background, see here and here.

Meanwhile, here is the press release about Harry Roberts…


Bridgetown, Barbados
FRIDAY, April 3, 2009
Email Contact:               graemehall@graemehall.com
Archives and Art:          http://www.graemehall.com/press.htm

Making a Legacy in Barbados

[ Bridgetown , BARBADOS ]   “They began to lure me to the Sanctuary back in 2003 saying that it would be quiet and peaceful,” laughed Harry Roberts.

Roberts recalled how the last five years as General Manager of the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary was one of the most interesting and challenging of his career.

Construction of the Sanctuary was completed in early 2004, and the mandate to Roberts was to put together a 100% Barbadian management team to do an almost impossible job: maintain one of the most biodiverse areas in Barbados, operate a series of nonprofit and often philanthropic wildlife and education programmes, and make it all operationally sustainable.

It was a challenge unlike any other business.  Conventional economic strategies to increase customer traffic and mass events could easily put the RAMSAR wetland at risk.  The RAMSAR site, partially owned by the Sanctuary, is recognized under the 1971 RAMSAR Convention on Wetlands Treaty as an internationally significant area of biodiversity.

Under the leadership of Roberts the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary provided conservation, research, education and philanthropic services to locals and visitors 364 days a year.

“Seeing thousands of schoolchildren benefit from the formal and informal field education programmes was especially gratifying,” said Roberts.

And in the last five years the Sanctuary became one of the most popular wedding and special group events site in Barbados .  It was the key to earning enough money to support environmental management of the Graeme Hall wetland.

Roberts improved operational sustainability an average of 27% each year, year after year.  But due to external environmental and legal issues that threaten the core US $35 million investment, the Sanctuary was closed in December of last year.

“We weren’t sure exactly how, or if Harry was going to pull it off,” said Stuart Heaslet, representative of the Sanctuary.  “Environmental attractions do not survive if a careful balance is not struck with the core needs of the ecosystem.  Harry’s challenge was extreme.  We asked him to give money and resources for philanthropic projects for the environment and the community, and we also asked him to make the operation pay for itself at the same time.  It was difficult mission.”

“But he did it.  Harry is a patient man.”

“We are saddened how events have made it impossible for him to continue, and miss him already.  We know he is moving on to the BHL Group, and wish him the best.  BHL is lucky to have him.”


Filed under Barbados, Barbados Tourism, Corruption, Disaster, Environment, Offshore Investments, Political Corruption, Politics, Politics & Corruption, Tourism, Travel, Traveling and Tourism

39 responses to “Harry Roberts Says Goodbye To Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary… Hello Banks Beer! (Can’t be all bad)

  1. Adrian Loveridge

    Harry and his team have done a extraordinary job and left us with a legacy we should all be very proud of. I really hope out of all this contention that a happy resolve will come.

    Having watched the recently posted ‘Demise of Sam Lords’ video, I am still not convinced that ‘we’ are truly serious about tourism and its potential.

    14 years of persuing a concrete and hoarding west coast with the closure of 29 hotels.

    Now in an economic recession, you have to wonder if ‘we’ really made the right tourism policy decisions and can ‘we’ realistically trade-out a situation almost impossible to control?

    How many more hotels, tourism attractions and activities can we afford to loose before we cease to become a desirable destination?


    How many more hotels, tourism attractions and activities can we afford to loose before we cease to become a desirable destination?

    I am not sure where you are going with that line Mr Loveridge but I saw noted some where very recently that Barbados has seen an increase in Hotel room stock as up to January this year.

    In the past I have more or less taken your information at face value but I am somewhat concerned that you may be altering the truth to suit your agenda and your needs.

    Please relate honestly to the matter and do not slant it as it suits you to slant it.

  3. Nostradamus

    Mr. Loveridge where is this ‘Demise of Sam Lords’ video posted?

  4. Nostradamus

    The Sanctuary was a 100% Barbadian managed and staffed ecotourism attraction that provided conservation, research, education and philanthropic services to locals and visitors 364 days a year. The expertise of the management and staff has been lost. Is anybody thinking?

    Written by STARCOM Network News

    Monday, 03 November 2008

    Government says every effort will be made to ensure that the Nature Sanctuary at Graeme Hall remains open.

    The 35 acre sanctuary ion Worthing Christ Chruch, Barbados’ most notable wetland and a popular tourist attraction is set to close on December 15th affecting 85 people.

    Canadian owner, Peter Allard has invested 30 million dollars in the attraction.

    However Tourism Minister, Richard Sealy tells STARCOM NETWORK NEWS the lines of communication between the owners and Government are open.

    Can GHNS tell us when was their last communication to Government and when and what was the last communication from Government to GHNS?

  5. Hants

    The Tourism Industry has served Barbados well and brought much needed jobs and foreign currency to this very small spec on the planet.

    Yes we need more attractions and bigger hotels
    but it costs money.Lots of money.

    Barbados needs hotels with 1000 rooms to benefit from economies of scale.

    Tourist attractions should be built with private money and be profitable.

    After the recession all things will be possible.

    I was in Barbados last week. I flew on Air Canada and the plane was full of Canadian Bajans taking advantage of the cheap air fare($400cad.roundtrip including taxes).

    Good for us but not good for Tourism.

    Even the Sanctuary will become profitable after the recession ends and the next economic boom starts.

    This is a very big resort. Been there twice and it was amazing.


  6. Hants

    google ‘Demise of Sam Lords’

  7. Hants

    I have watched the video.

    After the recession this will be a salvage,restore rebuild and expand project.

    The next economic boom will provide opportunities to correct past “mistakes”.

  8. GHNS

    The only formal meeting between Peter Allard’s representative and the new Minister of Environment occurred in early January, 2009. It was a seemingly positive meeting that promised further meetings with government, but none were scheduled.

    The Sanctuary does not know the scope or status of a government proposal that is apparently underway within the Natural Heritage Department within the Ministry of Environment to address the issues at Graeme Hall.

    The Natural Heritage Department has been the Department in charge of Graeme Hall for years.

    An official with the Ministry of Environment, Water Resources and Drainage did call Mr. Allard’s representative in early in March, 2009 promising a proposal “within two or three weeks.”

  9. Nostradamus

    Hants, I did Google it but found nothing. Please post the link. Thanks.

  10. Duppy Lizard

    Nostradamus – Just Google Sam Lord’s Castle Barbados, Google will do the rest for you. It is like looking at the wreck of the Titanic. How could someone allow this beautiful building to reach it’s present condition?

  11. Jason

    There is not much to talk about when it comes to “preserving” the nature sanctuary. The government’s intent to develop and profit from the public lands surrounding the sanctuary was made clear when they changed the law to allow development on the wetlands.

    Everything that happens now is window dressing and public relations by the government if it doesn’t change the law back again to prevent commercial development at Graeme Hall.

    Prime Minister Thompson’s friend Leroy Parris will be developing CLICO’s chunk of land next to the nature sanctuary. When that happens and when the other lands to the north and east are developed a mangrove swamp will die.

    There will be no national Park at Graham Hall. There will be no green space between Bridgetown and the airport. The plan is to sell the public lands to the government’s developer friends. It is a done deal.

    Enjoy your new paved over Paradise.

  12. Douglas Newsam

    “The lines of communication are open”. Can they be serious/ After years of failing to take the Sanctuary seriously does anyone believe that either party is interested in it? Apart from Mr Allard who evidently did not please any of our politicians no one has an y interest in conservation for its own sake. Government says that every effort will be made ….- that is unless it requires Government to actually do something.
    Hoping that it will be saved when the recession is over is pie in the sky. By that time the cost of refurbishment will make it prohibitive and don’t expect another Peter Allard to come along and be a benefactor.
    What a mess it all is.

  13. Jason

    GHNS, you always try to put neutral and positive outlook on things because you don’t want to offend the government. I think we all understand that.

    Let us all cut the bull ship though, the nature sanctuary is finished. The national park is a non-starter. The politicians and their developer friends win again.

    The losers are the people of Barbados for generations to come.

  14. Hants

    Mr. Allard spent $32million US on the Sanctuary without any guarantees from the Government that the 240 acre Graeme Hall swamp would be protected from development.

    We elect governments who hire professionals to make policies…Town Planning…Ministry of the environment etc.

    I will in no way seek to diminish the value of any philantropic efforts by Mr. Allard because I know nothing about him but from my perspective, the Sanctuary is a viable for profit Tourist attraction.

    Mr. Allard has advertised it for $24million US and government should buy it and manage it under similar conditions to the Harrison’s Caves.

    Decisions with regards to the 240 acre swamp is up to the appropriate Government ministries.

    The citizens of Barbados can use their right to influence the decisions of Government including public protests.

  15. Nostradamus

    “With its magnificent interiors, especially its fine plaster ceilings, by Charles Rutter, it is one of the most important historic buildings in the Western Hemisphere.” Page 68, Treasures of Barbados by Henry S Fraser on Sam Lord’s Castle.

    Isn’t Sam Lords Castle a “Listed Building”?

    From TCDP website http://www.townplanning.gov.bb/content.aspx?c=54&s=defines

    “All development, including alterations to the interior, or exterior appearance; changes to windows, balconies, materials, painting and colouring; additions and extensions, change of use or demolition of a listed building, will require express planning permission, and will be circulated to the Barbados National Trust, the Barbados Museum and Historical Society, and any additional nominated body for comments.”

    “Development adjacent to or in the vicinity of a Listed Building, where through its siting, scale, or design, it would have a major adverse impact on the setting of the Listed Building, will be discouraged. The Government will seek to increase the fines for illegal demolition of listed historic buildings.”

    Why would CLICO / and head honcho Parris allow Sam Lord’s Castle to become a derelict building? Who is going to answer for this crime against our architectural heritage? Does CLICO not own Villa Nova, another listed building? Does anyone know what state it is in right now?

    The omens are not good for the part of the Natural Heritage Conservation Area lands that CLICO owns at Graeme Hall. Based on their lack of respect for our built heritage we should not expect CLICO to respect our Natural Heritage

  16. Hants

    Sam Lords Castle can be restored and become the focal area of an expanded Resort development.

    This can only be done when the economy is “booming”.

    Right now it is not possible to find investors and partners to build anything in Barbados.

    The Four seasons type Billionaires became millionaires and the millionaires became han to mout so…..

  17. Nostradamus


    NATION NEWSPAPER – January 28, 2006
    “CLICO Holdings chairman Leroy Parris said then that Sam Lord’s would be redeveloped. During the construction phase, he said, most of the hotel rooms would be knocked down, but the “castle” would be preserved because of its historical value.

    At least Leroy recognized it had historical value. Pity about the preservation!”


    NATION NEWSPAPER Date June 08, 2008

    “By monthend CLICO Holdings Barbados should get full approval to start its
    $320 million project at Sam Lord’s Castle, St Philip.That includes a 250-room hotel, 200 condominiums and refurbishment of the historic Sam Lord’s Castle, around which the entire tourism project will be centred.”

    Leroy is going to make The Castle the centre of the project!


    NATION NEWSPAPER January 28, 2009
    Brief by Katrina Bend

    “Redevelopment of historic Sam Lord’s Castle hotel in St Philip should begin by the second quarter of this year and be completed within two-and-half years.
    The project, estimated to cost US$70 million, was confirmed yesterday by the chairman of CLICO Holdings Barbados Limited Leroy C. Parris and president Terrence A. Thornhill at a Press conference to launch the company’s 25th anniversary celebrations.

    Parris said: “At this stage, we can say that we are really ready now. I think we have everything in place. We’re speaking to consultants, project managers. . . It should take two-and-a-half years to complete.”

    Hants, was Sam Lords Castle derelict and in its present condition when CLICO /Parris acquired it in 2005? Didn’t they have a duty to ensure that this piece of our architectural heritage was at a minimum maintained and protected?

  18. Adrian Loveridge


    Sam Lords has not become derelict since the recent Global economic problems. Its been allowed to fall apart over a number of years.
    The beach has not been touched since the passing of Hurricane Ivan.
    Paros have even been able to build substantial structures in which they reside.

    I approached Verdun House some time ago to see if they would undertake a clean-up of the beach. They would have done it for BDS$3,000, and I managed to raise $1,500 towards the cost from corporate Barbados. I approached CLICO for the balance and never ever got a reply (5 emails).

    Does this sound like a good corporate Citizen?

  19. GHNS


    Your comment “Mr. Allard spent $32million US on the Sanctuary without any guarantees from the Government that the 240 acre Graeme Hall swamp would be protected from development” is deceptive and untrue.

    Mr. Allard did his due diligence, and as a foreign investor was assured by the spirit and intent of the 1988 National Physical Development Plan that the entire Graeme Hall area would be preserved as open, conservation and recreational lands.

    The Plan was in fact ratified by Parliament.

    It took less than 20 years overturn the visionary work of the previous Town Planners who, with the help of UN planners (HABITAT), advocated that the Graeme Hall green buffer be protected in perpetuity.

    This isn’t just about the right of a sovereign government to do what it wants. It’s also about consequences when government policies place foreign investments at risk.

  20. Sargeant

    o I was in Barbados last week. I flew on Air Canada and the plane was full of Canadian Bajans taking advantage of the cheap air fare($400cad.roundtrip including taxes).
    Good for us but not good for Tourism

    Could you please provide some explanation for the above? Why is this not good for tourism? Did the “Canadian Bajans” not rent hotel rooms or vehicles or eat at restaurants go to Oistins or buy products or take part in any of the activities that the other “tourists” do? “Canadian Bajans” take advantage of every opportunity to return to Barbados and if they got a cheap flight this year it was a bonus. For the past few years I have been paying a king’s ransom to return but this year I got a little back from Air Canada. I plan to return later in the year so the ball is still in Air Canada’s court.

    I would say in the long run it is a good thing that Air Canada could fill seats on a scheduled flight because we want the service to be there when the economy improves after all we don’t Air Canada to do a Bwee or Air Jamiaca do we?

  21. Hants

    Sounds like Clico was overly ambitious in their plans for Sam Lords castle.

    Nothing will happen until the recession ends and investment money starts flowing again.

    Prehaps Sam Lords will be sold again to a company with real money and the vision to restore and develop a branded resort.

  22. Hants

    Sorry Sargeant. All the Canadian Bajans I know stay with relatives.

    I guess you are in a different “league”.

    I am glad to hear you are filling up the hotels.

  23. Red Lake Lassie

    Sounds like Clico was overly ambitious so much that they didn’t put a fence around the place or protect it from further damage. Unless that was the plan all along!

  24. Sargeant


     Sorry Sargeant. All the Canadian Bajans I know stay with relatives.
    I guess you are in a different “league”.
    I am glad to hear you are filling up the hotels

    Sarcasm is the poorest form of wit. Many Bajans or their descendants who return to Barbados on holiday opt for lodgings other than with relatives. Your original point suggested that “Canadian Bajans” were not tourists but were taking advantage of cheap fares to travel. Anyway I get your point to wit “tourists are people born in a foreign land who visit and stay in hotels”.

    BTW what do you call the folk that arrive on cruise ships and walk up to Bridgetown to window shop, then stop at Chefette and buy a snack box before walking back to the ship?

  25. San Diego

    Red Lake Lassie and Bajangal both hit the nail on the head as regards the shocking condition of Sam Lord’s Castle. Red Lake Lassie commented: “Unless that was the plan all along”. Sam Lord’s Castle? A bastion of “white supremacy”, so it can stay there and rot. Yep, that was the obvious plan. The Clico gentleman doesn’t seem to realise that when he’s “punishing” whites, he is also punishing blacks. Perhaps he’s a bit myopic.

  26. Fool Me Once

    What happened to the million dollars the government said was going to be spent to reopen the nature sanctuary?

    Was this this just talk or is there real money to make this happen. ?

    Why Mr.Roberts and all the others being let go if there money to pay them and reopen from the government?

  27. Green Monkey

    As has been repeatedly pointed out, money to run the park is NOT THE ISSUE at the heart of the matter.

    The issue is that the Barbados government, when Owen was PM, removed the protected status of the land surrounding Graeme Hall, permitting it to be developed for housing, commercial purposes etc. The current government under PM Thompson appears to be making no moves, nor have the will, to reverse that regrettable decision.

    When the current owner of the nature reserve bought the land and developed the nature sanctuary at a cost of some $30,000,000 US, he made sure the land surrounding the proposed sanctuary had been acknowledged by the Barbados government as environmentally sensitive and had therefore been set aside by the government as an environmental buffer zone to remain in an undeveloped state. No one counted on the Barbados government changing horses midstream and opening up the land for future development.

    The owners of GHNS believe that if the surrounding land is not kept as a buffer zone and is developed, as is now apparently in the works, it will lead to the decline and inevitable death of the swamp’s eco-system. So they see no point now in continuing to throw good money after (30,000,000US) bad to keep the nature sanctuary open for a few more years, just to watch it be slowly strangled and eventually die as the developers turn the surrounding lands into concrete at great profit to themselves.

    The purpose of the government publicly offering the sanctuary a million dollars to keep the place open appears to be nothing more than sleight of hand and distraction by the government to fool people that the problem is, at heart, just a money/lack of funds issue.

    The government can then continue to please their business/corporate/developer friends and supporters and ignore the true source of contention as they maintain the pretense that the dispute is not in any way related to the government’s own plans to allow corporations and businesses to develop the formerly protected lands and destroy the long term viability of the GHNS.


    How will Gov’t manage a privately owned property ?

    Does the Gov’t have the right to step in and take it all over and then say we are now running it, thank you.

    I am sure were this the case we would be hearing the call of Dictator or some thing along those lines.

  29. Red Lake Lassie

    Green Monkey, you are wrong about who removed the protection for Graeme Hall.

    It was not the BLP Owen Arthur Government, it was DLP Thompson government that voted and approved the new plan.

    Take it back, please!

  30. Green Monkey

    Red Lake Lassie

    April 11, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    Green Monkey, you are wrong about who removed the protection for Graeme Hall.

    It was not the BLP Owen Arthur Government, it was DLP Thompson government that voted and approved the new plan.

    Take it back, please!

    OK RLL, it appears you are correct, from this earlier post at BFP:

    Allard offered to give the majority of the sanctuary’s lands to the people of Barbados for FREE if the government would only follow through with the plans to preserve Graeme Hall that had been on the books for decades until David Thompson and his DLP crones changed the land-use law. If that is “dictating” to the government and its land developer friends, I wish we had a dozen more “dictators” like Allard!


    I think I had the impression the deed was done under “King Arthur’s” reign, because of the plans which were at one time being pushed, apparently with Owen Arthur’s support, to build the proposed Caribbean Splash water park on the hill just above the GHNS, which was also considered by some to hold potential dangers for the nature sanctuary’s environment.

  31. Sargeant

    I thought both Gov’ts were at fault didn’t the DLP rubber stamp some changes that were in the works under the BLP?

  32. GHNS

    The actual development of the 2003 National Physical Development Plan (PDP) started back in the 1990’s, and land use decisions were being presumed based on the “Draft” version of the 2003 PDP even before the actual ratification by Parliament in 2008.

    As most everyone knows, the 2003 PDP overturned the 1988 PDP recommendations to preserve the majority of the entire Graeme Hall site from the wetlands all the way up to the ABC Highway for conservation, recreation and open space.

    This document will help clarify what happened:

    Click to access GHNS-Land-Use-Conflicts-QandA.pdf

  33. Donald Duck, Esq

    Why not ask Donald Trump to take it over!!!

  34. Sing-a-song

    Oh spare me the “lotta long talk”. I didn’t put a cent in the Castle and I don’t plan to put any in the future. If something is deemed to be part of the “nation’s architectural heritage” then it should be acquired by the state and maintained by the state say like Farley Hill (wink wink). If Clico wants to knock Sam Lord’s castle down then that’s their prerogative. The only duty Clico had was to pay all taxes due on ownership of the property. The listed buildings legislation should be repealed.

  35. Nostradamus

    Sing-a-song, ask CLICO Barbados head man to spare us the “lotta long talk”.

    He is the one quoted as saying ” but the “castle” would be preserved because of its historical value. ”

    Do a search on Nation newspaper website and see the amount of stories and “lotta long talk” coming form CLICO regarding Sam Lords Castle.

  36. Sing-a-song

    These guys will say anything until the bill comes in. Restoration technology and know-how does not come cheap. Parris talks a lot of ca-ca. It would be instructive to analyze the situation at say the Savannah Hotel. How much did it take to bring George Washington House up to its current excellent presentation (even though it’s clear that there are(were?) moisture problems) ?

  37. J

    On APril 11th at 9:56 p.m. Sdan Diego wrote “Sam Lord’s Castle? A bastion of “white supremacy”, so it can stay there and rot. Yep, that was the obvious plan. The Clico gentleman doesn’t seem to realise that when he’s “punishing” whites, he is also punishing blacks.”

    It is ok to take your medication and go back to bed.

  38. San Diego

    Well, you know what, J? ANYONE would rather take medication than take a dose of YOU – the original “narcisistic vampire”. Someone should hire you as their attack dog.