Will Canadian Philanthropist Peter Allard Take Over Failing Barbados Tourist Attraction Ocean Park?

“We have run out of funds needed to push forward to a sustainable position.”

… Ocean Park manager Tracy Johnson

Ocean Park Aquarium Shutting Down August 30, 2009

The Barbados marine exhibition known as Ocean Park has been dying a slow death and bleeding investors since shortly after it opened in 2005. Everyone had hopes that the tourist attraction would thrive in Barbados, but obviously the gross revenues and visitor traffic couldn’t sustain the operational expenses. According to the newspaper articles about Ocean Park, it takes a whole lot of electricity and other costs to keep salt-water big fish for display, and after seeing the facilities I believe that. (CBC article: Ocean Park future in doubt Nation article: Ocean Park expected to fold)

Shona and I took the boy and his cousin once and it was an enjoyable, if expensive, morning and lunch. The best part for the little ones was being able to touch the (de-barbed) sting rays in the pool – but after a few minutes, I’d put the boys’ excitement rating on the same level as finding a new bug or lizard in the yard. Which is all to say that the visit was enjoyable, but quite the price for a Bajan family by the time we purchased drinks and a snack.

As to the wisdom of taking an undistinguished empty field and trying to make a Disney-like major attraction in Barbados, my thoughts are that when tourists arrive in Barbados either by cruise ship or airplane, they don’t want to see mega “tourist attractions” that they can see elsewhere. People come to Barbados to experience what is unique about our country and our culture.

I believe that Ocean Park and other “mega attractions” are doomed to fail in Barbados because our tourists don’t come here to see mini versions of world-class experiences that are better done in larger markets. Consider the 4 million or so cruise ship passengers that transit through Miami every year (source here). If those passengers want to see a real world class marine park, they can go to the Miami Seaquarium and see killer whales, turtles, sharks and even swim with dolphins. Many do!

We certainly didn’t see any bus-loads of cruise ship passengers arriving at Ocean Park during our visit. Again that was probably because those people want to spend their few hours ashore seeing what is unique to Barbados.

Thank God that Owen Arthur’s Caribbean Splash Waterpark didn’t happen because in a short while it too would have been an abandoned eyesore.

Just like Ocean Park will be an abandoned eyesore in a few months.

Investors and lenders are in business to make money and if there is no return on their investment – and no prospects of profit – they cut their losses and boogie. I can’t blame Ocean Park’s investors for getting out after trying to make it work for almost five years, but their failure should be a lesson for anyone with hopes of establishing Disney-like tourist attractions in the Barbados market.

Ocean Park vs. Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary: What’s the difference?

On the bare surface, the closure of Ocean Park seems to echo last year’s closing of the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary by millionaire (billionaire?) Canadian philanthropist Peter Allard – but even a moment’s consideration disproves that false notion.

Ocean Park was a business failure, pure and simple. The owners and investors started a business to make a profit, and when it didn’t and they couldn’t see it ever making a profit – and nobody wanted to further invest into the business – they closed Ocean Park to stop the financial bleeding.

The Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary though was not created for profit. It was created as a gift to Barbados. The driving force behind the nature sanctuary is Peter Allard, who is by all accounts a super-rich guy who enjoys giving something back through his philanthropy directed to educational, social, medical and environmental causes. Nice work if you can get it, I guess!

Dr. Charles Allard, father of Canadian philanthropist Peter Allard

Dr. Charles Allard, father of Canadian philanthropist Peter Allard

Again from what I can find online (here, here and here), Peter Allard and the rest of his family came into their money honestly enough starting with the family patriarch, Dr. Charles Allard, who gave up his surgery and went into business way back when. Over the last 50 years, the Allards became super successful in real estate, the gas and petrochemical industry and television broadcasting.

Different folks have different interests. While Oprah gives back by supporting her extensive Angel Network, Kermit Weeks preserves aviation history and sponsors pilot training for inner-city youths and Jay Grossman looks after the dental needs of L.A.’s homeless people, Peter Allard contributes tens of millions of dollars to communities through medical and environmental projects.

School Children Learning At The Last Mangrove Wetlands On The Island - The Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary

School Children Learning At The Last Mangrove Wetlands On The Island - The Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary

Helping Barbados By Cleaning and Saving Our Natural Environment

Almost 20 years ago, Peter Allard decided that saving the last mangrove forest and wetlands in Barbados was a worthy project, so he spent some US$30 million dollars of his own money cleaning up the dumping and damage at Graeme Hall and created a world-class nature sanctuary. Allard didn’t do all this in a vacuum as he originally had encouragement and appreciation from the Government of Barbados – at the time under the leadership of Owen Arthur. Allard was also assured that the Graeme Hall wetlands would stay protected as a natural resource under our country’s official land use plan.

Along the way, Peter Allard obviously fell in love with Barbados as he also funded the reef ball project and offered to give a multi-million dollar Cancer and AIDS hospice to Barbados so our loved ones would have proper care at the end of their lives.

Although the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary was a philanthropic project it employed some one hundred people directly and indirectly, and eventually it became almost self-supporting with the shortfall covered by Mr. Allard. But once again, the Nature Sanctuary was not supposed to make a profit. Allard supported the sanctuary operations and saved the wetlands as his gift to Barbados – his way of giving something back.

But then government insiders wanted to profit through land speculation at Graeme Hall

The fact that Peter Allard and his team cleaned up and saved the Graeme Hall wetlands meant that the public lands surrounding the Nature Sanctuary became tremendously valuable IF ONLY the government would change the national plan and permit building and commercial activity on lands that had been set aside as public green space.

And so the sabotage by Owen Arthur and his government friends started with the intent of making the foreigner run from Barbados. The nature sanctuary and Allard with his damned notion of “environment” were standing in the way of profits and kickbacks.

Soon the government sluice gate that controlled the water flow in and out of the mangrove ponds was damaged and not repaired so oxygen levels dropped killing fish. Then, oops! Sewerage was diverted from the government processing station into the nature sanctuary. Promised tax credits for the sanctuary operation never arrived for a decade as they were being “processed” by government workers. Then Owen Arthur met with American waterslide park developer Matthew Kerins and agreed to let Kerins build a water park on the wetlands.

When citizen outrage caused then-Prime Minister Owen Arthur to withdraw permission for a proposed Caribbean Splash waterslide park on the Graeme Hall wetlands, the BLP government ceased trying to pretend they cared about the environment and mangrove wetlands and announced they would change the official land use plan to allow for commercial development at Graeme Hall.

Barbados Environment Disaster

Prime Minister Thompson said “To Hell with parkland for citizens. Change the land use plan and make money developing what used to be a public green space!”

In January 2008, the citizens of Barbados tossed out Owen Arthur and his BLP, but unfortunately the new DLP gang under Prime Minister David Thompson had dollar signs in their eyes too.

One of the first acts of the David Thompson DLP Government was to change the law protecting 265 acres of parkland at Graeme Hall to allow developer friends to profit from these public lands. To make this happen, David Thompson and the DLP Members of Parliament had to set aside laws that had protected the land from development since 1988. When the government was finished, 2/3 of the parkland (175 acres) was gone and the government effectively signed the death warrant for the last mangrove wetland on the island.

And with all of that, Peter Allard finally decided late last year to shake the Barbados sand from his shoes and take his philanthropy to other places where the government and the people appreciate the value of their own natural environment and work to preserve it. Peter Allard shut down the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary after the government of Barbados stole two thirds of the parkland so their developer friends could profit from what should be YOUR parkland.

So you see, there is a huge difference between the business failure of Ocean Park, and the closing of the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary – which leads us to the conclusion…

Peter Allard Rescue Ocean Park? Not A Bloody Chance!

38 Comments

Filed under Agriculture, Barbados, Barbados Tourism, Corruption, Disaster, Environment, Offshore Investments, Tourism, Traveling and Tourism, Wildlife

38 responses to “Will Canadian Philanthropist Peter Allard Take Over Failing Barbados Tourist Attraction Ocean Park?

  1. Stephen

    Ocean Park is a good attraction, but it’s been too expensive for a long time. The annual rate is fine. When they have a locals day ($5) it’s full to the hilt. The mini golf was once great, but’s been allowed to run down so attracts less people. The play park is one of the best on the island for children. The splash zone is too dangerous. Whoever though of putting wet water with running kids on concrete was inviting a head injury. Luckily none so far, but…
    The whole place was better as a driving range for golfers to enjoy 50 balls and a banks. Bring it back…

  2. missing home

    I second that about the driving range. Whatever were people thinking that a so-so aquarium setup in the middle of nowhere would be viable?

  3. Paradox

    “Peter Allard rescue ocean park?” You have just answered your question.
    “My thoughts are that when tourists arrive in B’dos either by cruise ship or airplane, they don’t want to see mega tourist attraction that they can see elsewhere…..but their failure should be a lesson for anyone….”
    One doesn’t need a degree to know the above!

    Many tourists coming to these shores are ordinary people who have worked all year to save for their holidays. They want to see something ‘unique and affordable’ to the Island they are visiting.
    The South & west coasts are a big turn-off for many, with concrete every where. Spain has learned from its mistakes.
    Will it be a lesson for …? NO!

  4. Canuck

    We like OceanPark and will be sad if it is not open on our next trip but we understand too, that if the park can’t fiscally make it, it will have to close.

    The splash zone is no more dangerous than splash zones/pads elsewhere. Your kids are not supposed to run, just as they are not supposed to run along the area around pools. This behaviour may not come naturally to kids and so parenting will be needed!

  5. government versus private and NGO's

    Nothing will ever happen in Barbados until all of these green spaces and tourist attractions are treated like national treasures by government.

    Government politicians and bureaucrats have left
    a horrible legacy for future Barbadians and must engage those that can and not those who are looking to keep a job and who have let the citizens down over these many years.

  6. Me.

    Your best post yet.

  7. BajanPrince/PrinceofBarbados!!! Worried 15 year old BajanAmerican living in NY

    How does BFP know that David Thompson actually took 2/3 of Parkland out of Graeme Hall??? Did he actually come out and annouce this act of ignorance??? Can somebody please answer this question cause I’m still confused. If this is true then its a complete opposite of what Thompson said in his DLP Manifesto 2008. Mr. Thompson, what happened to “PRESERVING and CONSERVING the land for Barbadians???? What happened to the PRESERVING and expanding of windows to the sea??? What happened to the 30,000 acres of agricultural land??? What happened to ALL of these “PROMISES”!!???!!! I am sad to say this but Mr. Thompson you are one CORRUPT individual. DON’T make promises you are NOT going to keep!!!! If you allow development at MY BEAUTIFUL Graeme Hall then you will have to say bye-bye to your faithful tourism industry. No one is going to want to travel to a destination where concrete is a trend. LEAVE BARBADOS ALONE!!!! God will take care of those who want to destroy MY BEAUTIFUL ISLAND!!!!!!!

  8. nubienne

    I’d also like to know the answer to the question above, was there some announcement that I missed?

  9. skinteeth

    I agree, no lesson will be learnt. But why .. just look at this blog and the last few posts; for the Jetblue topic only one post was relevant , all the others were about Symmonds, and then the Symmonds ‘,mainly attracted the comics with political axes to grind, missing the opportunity to point out that this behaviour is a serious problem in Barbados. Let us continue on our merry way and we gine mek it

  10. John

    Bajan Prince

    It is to do with the signing off on the Physical Development Plan, PDP.

    You may or may not remember that in November or December 2007, right before the elections, David Thompson and the DLP walked out of Parliament.

    At the last sitting before elections, O$A brought the “Amended Physical Development Plan 2003” to Parliament for debate and adoption.

    As you can appreciate, no opposition = no debate and the plan was adopted.

    A notice appeared in the paper in early 2008 that David Thompson would be signing the “approved” PDP into “law” and this was done, to the best of my knowledge.

    In the absence of debate the DLP never said anything for or against the plan ……. silence = acquiescence.

    Not only were the changes made to the land at Graeme Hall but so too was the change of use of the land at Greenland from a Zone 1 area to land to be used as a landfill.

    So quite apart from Graeme Hall, the DLP have also in effect rubber stamped Greenland.

  11. akabozik

    When the Tbompson government passed their new land use plan in Feb 2008 the change in the green space designation at Graeme Hall was contained in the legislation. It was their first piece of legislation as a government.

    Don’t forget that Clico and Leroy Parris stood to profit from the change because they own land in the area.

  12. John

    “As to the wisdom of taking an undistinguished empty field and trying to make a Disney-like major attraction in Barbados….”

    That undistinguished empty field was once in agriculture.

    Like every canefield in Barbados, it had a name and it was called “Coconut Tree”.

  13. missing home

    All these hill and fields were once beautiful, but those guys were idiots for investing so much money in that business concept in that place.

    I think the point of the “undistinguished field” is that it could have been any field anywhere. Ocean Park could have been in any country. Nothing Bajan about it.

  14. Canuck

    And a driving range would be mre Bajan?

  15. BajanPrince

    So what you are telling me is that David Thompson’s PDP contained a section which stated that the land at Graeme Hall is to be change for development and there shortly after his PDP was turned into law? Wuh gine on in my Barbados??!!!??? I thought the Greenland Dump fiasco was an act of the BLP not the DLP???!!!! Please visit petitiononline.com/SOSBNT/petition-sign/html

  16. BajanPrince

    So what you are telling me is that David Thompson’s PDP contained a section which stated that the land at Graeme Hall is to be change for development and there shortly after his PDP was turned into law? Wuh gine on in my Barbados??!!!??? I thought the Greenland Dump fiasco was an act of the BLP not the DLP???!!!! Please visit petitiononline.com/SOSBNT/petition-sign/html to sign my petition to SAVE & PRESERVE Graeme Hall for future generations of Barbadians

  17. BajanPrince

    The previous post was in response to John’s post

  18. Wright B.Astards

    I would not write of these investors as thoughtless in turning agricultural land into a wannabe Disney Land. The long term objective of the Driving Range and Ocean Park people is to gradually convert that cane field into a upscale gated residental park, like that of the nearby Callenders Golf Course.
    As for being a tourist attraction, the only fish that visitors to this island appear to be interested in are is the fried types at Oistins on weekends.

  19. livinginbarbados

    There is nothing Disny-like about Ocean Park, except that it has a turnstile. That is perhaps its failing. Little to attract repeat visits. For locals, its main feature is as a birthday party site. Not a good business model, at all.

  20. PiedPiper

    So the question begs to be asked. Why would an astute business man such as Peter Allard, even consider trying to save it? Unless of course, he has a totally new business model.

  21. tongue in cheek

    I think BFP is pulling our legs.

    The point is Barbados has almost no tourist attractions left.

    Government does next to nothing to promote what it has if its a private initiative and is not a political boondoggle for employees and friends to “tief” from.

  22. Anonymous

    Peter Allard created the nature sanctuary as a “do good works” for Barbados. Is he a Christian? Don’t know but he acts like a real Christian should.

    He won’t “take over” the Ocean Park for 3 reasons:

    1/ Allard much too smart to buy a f’d up business like Ocean Park.

    2/ Prime Minister Thompson kick his ass outta here so he can steal the land around the nature sanctuary.

    3/ Allard won’t put one more dollar into Barbados cause the guvment steal it all. Foreign investors come to Barbados! We treat you right! (heh heh heh)

  23. over2you

    I hate Davy Thompson for betraying me. He should have kept his promises about integrity legislation and the environment.

    What is the use of voting anymore? They are all the same.

  24. BajanPrince/PrinceofBarbados!!! Worried 15 year old BajanAmerican living in NY

    I totally agree 100%. Although I am not a citizen of Barbados I totally agree. As long as Bajans have the mentality of mashing up de island for development then the Barbados environment will be in the path of destruction. If Dominicans(from the island of Dominica) were running our little island then these issues would have NEVER come about. Will there EVER be a government in control of Barbados that actually cares about the Barbados environment and whats best for Bajans???

  25. BajanPrince/PrinceofBarbados!!! Worried 15 year old BajanAmerican living in NY

    PLEASE visit my petition to STOP this act of corruption on http://www.petitiononline.com/SOSBNT/petition.html and my blog wuhgineon.blogspot.com

  26. David Brooks

    “Don’t forget that Clico and Leroy Parris stood to profit from the change because they own land in the area.”

    Ah, now, you’ve hit the hammer on the right head, but what is happening now … deadly silence on the whole Clico affair. You hardly see, if at all, Parris in the newspapers anymore.

    Well I guess they figure that as usual it will blow over in time.

  27. 2009

    Leroy Parris is now living in T & T. He will be back for a Christmas vacation.

  28. John

    BajanPrince
    August 15, 2009 at 6:13 pm
    So what you are telling me is that David Thompson’s PDP contained a section which stated that the land at Graeme Hall is to be change for development and there shortly after his PDP was turned into law? Wuh gine on in my Barbados??!!!??? I thought the Greenland Dump fiasco was an act of the BLP not the DLP???!!!! Please visit petitiononline.com/SOSBNT/petition-sign/html to sign my petition to SAVE & PRESERVE Graeme Hall for future generations of Barbadians

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    The decision to go to Greenland was taken in 1994, under the D’s.

    The B’s carried it out …. well not really as we haven’t reached yet and it is 15 years and >$50 million later.

    …. but I tell you, that >$50 million sure uplifted the GDP!!

  29. True enough, not many attractions left to attract tourists. I hear of many other foreign places advertising eco-tourism, real diving tours that don’t cost an arm and a leg.
    So I guess Barbados will sell of what little of land and nature is left to the rich and famous to build mansions and condos which leaves very little for the local population as far as work, land and sea is
    concerned.
    Ocean Park could not offer nearly what other places have to offer.

  30. Rumplestilskin

    According t6 the news media, Clico insurance has just shut a few offices in T&T.

  31. What has happened with Ocean Park strengthens one of my theses about what Barbados may face after the current world recession.

    1. The recession will see the death of several important pillars of the tourism sector: Adrian Loveridge has confirmed what has happened to some very prominent restaurants and hotels.
    2. The end of the recession will not see the rebirth of these now dead pillars, and may not see the emergence of any significant new pillars–not least because the recovery will be slow and fragile.
    3. That loss may be a ‘dead weight’, ie never removed, and has serious negative implications for job creation and income generation in Barbados.
    4. The challenge is to fill the hole left by those dead pillars and I do see anything that is coming along that looks remotely likely to go far in filling the hole.

  32. Hants

    Barbados was built from nothing but sugar cane to what it is today.

    It will recover from the recession because Bajans are resilient and entrepreneurial.

    In the words of a Cuban minister, “todays golf course is tomorrows vegetable and or beef farm.”

    COW? Apes Hill?

    The Recovery from this recession will be long and “drawn out” as there is no new economic boom in sight.

    If Invest Barbados continues to do its job we will see new businesses in Barbados.

    The glass is half full.

  33. BajanPrince/PrinceofBarbados!!! Worried 15 year old BajanAmerican living in NY

    Oh ok but now that they have the new landfill in St. Thomas whats the sense of keeping the Greenland dump? Shouldn’t it be returned to its natural state? I think so. Thank you VERY MUCH for signing my petition. A change has got to come in the island.

  34. John

    Not sure about any new landfill in St. Thomas.

    I know they periodically extend the old one or open up a new cell and get a few years breathing space.

    Think there has been activity building a transfer station though …. to transfer the garbage to I don’t know/can’t imagine where.

    Haven’t been following the St. Thomas site so am pretty ignorant of what is going on there.

    Geologist Hans Machel suggested alternative sites in the St. Lucy area for a landfill.

    Wherever they put the landfill it will have a finite life ….. that’s the key to remember.

    Ultimately incineration seems to be the real answer.

    You could try googling Singapore garbage incineration and see what you get.

    Singapore is also an island just a bit larger than Barbados.

    Last time I looked they had four incinerators to deal with the garbage produced by the 4 plus million people and were building offshore islands with the reduced waste from incineration.

    About two or more years ago I looked at the new islands on Google Earth so by now they must be more noticeable.

    I remember seeing somewhere on the net that Singapore had taken care of its requirements for garbage disposal till 2043.

    If you are interested, have a look and see what has changed.

    Singapore obviously has a plan which it is following.

    You also could try seeing what Singapore does for water!!!!

    Then you would realise just what sort of predicament we are in.

    Last time I looked they were consuming about 10 times the water we consume with much of it piped across the Straits of Johore from Malaysia for treatment.

    They jealously protect the key water catchment areas which contribute a part of their supply.

    You can look at how the development is organised in Singapore on Google Earth.

    The water Singapore purchases from Malasia, is treated, and some sold back to Malaysia.

    The agreement between the two countries is/was due to expire and Malaysia wants to treat the water itself, control its water supply and sell the excess treated water to Singapore.

    The matter has been to court, can’t remember if it was the ICJ or what. Check if you are interested.

    Singapore doesn’t like what Malaysia proposes that but don’t see how it can do anything about it.

    It naturally wants control of its water supply but depends on Malaysia for part.

    So, Singapore has recently put in one of the largest desal plants in the world ….. about two years ago anyway ……. to combat the threat to its sovreignty posed by Malaysia and its insistence on control of its own water supply.

    This was my reading a couple of years ago and I am sure I am simplifying too much ….. you should check to see the current status as I may be wrong today.

    Quite an island …. Singapore. It got the jump on Malaysia but now Malaysia is catching up.

    Only been there once in transit for a few hours many years ago but studied it at leisure on Google Earth.

    If you do look into Singapore and Malaysia on the net, notice the lengths these countries go to control and develop their water supply and what sovreignty means to them.

  35. John

    …. and then there is a Corruption Perception Index that tells you Singapore is doing something right !!!!

    http://www.transparency.org/policy_research/surveys_indices/cpi

    If you are following a published plan it is pretty hard not to be transparent.

  36. permres

    I am only posting to say what a very enjoyable and informative read of this thread it has been. Thank you to all posters. What a pity the government does not seem to be taking notice.

  37. J. Payne

    I was just reading that Bridgetown is to find out shortly if it will be designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. Apparently, a part of the application was allegedly hung-up ( http://www.cbc.bb/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2205%3Aworld-heritage-bid&catid=7%3Abarbados-news&Itemid=12 ) on the abandoned Mobile Oil plant by Needham’s Point? (
    Google Maps — http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&ll=13.079133,-59.606924&spn=0.006615,0.011362&t=h&z=17 )

    This site was said to be cleaned up by the government and is somewhat of a large paved surface now. Would Ocean Park be more viable if it could make a land swap with the government of Barbados for that area? Afterall, it is right along the tourist belt. Plus it is closer to the sea so the park could use more fresh seawater too and would look better next to the Hilton Hotel then any storage tanks or large paved area. If the area were made to look historic it might do wonders too. Perhaps it could have a pirate theme or historic Barbadian theme integrated into it.

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