West Bayers voiced their concerns over a coastal works application many say could change the character of the Barker’s area forever.
Among the more than five dozen in attendance Tuesday night (20 November) at the grassroots group Save Barker’s Beach‘s public meeting was Dart VP for Special Projects and Partnerships Ken Hydes.
He took the heat, while offering some insights into the plan.
“The thing we’ve got to keep in mind, this is a replenishment zone,” said long-time diver and conservationist Peter Milburn.
“When you move that turtle grass, everything is going to wash away, and as much money as the Dart group has, they cannot control that,” added businessman Mervin Smith.
Environmental concerns top of mind for many who stepped to the podium Tuesday to speak their minds. Among their most burning questions, why is it necessary to remove the turtle grass in the first place?
Applicant Handell Whittaker was not in attendance for the meeting, but Mr. Hydes of the Dart group offered an explanation for removing more than four acres of turtle grass.
“There is a vision, there is a concept or a view that you have of what a beach experience would be like, and right now the current conditions at the section of Barker’s is basically very different than what a visitor to the island would normally be expecting,” said Mr. Hydes.
Cayman International School Grade 12 student Richard Weber’s impassioned debate fueled one of most contentious exchanges of the evening.
“Sir, how much are you being paid to say this,” said Mr. Weber, while gesturing at Mr. Hydes. “Barkers is Cayman, and if we give up Barker’s to this private development, towards this unneeded dock, just for coin, then I ask you are we not losing our own history and heritage in the process?”
“In regards to what I was paid to come here: this is my job,” said Mr. Hydes, who used a soft touch to defend his integrity.
Mr. Hydes suggested that the community’s energy might be better focused on efforts to breathe new life into long-stalled plans for Barker’s National Park.
“Let’s take this energy and not just talk about 1400 linear feet of beach,” said Mr. Hydes. “Let’s talk about the broader national park.”
CIS grade 11 student Olivia Zimmer said first things first.
“Coming here tonight and speaking out against this one plan is our first step in that,” said Ms. Zimmer said to applause. “We are fighting this so that we can ensure the safety of our national parks in the future.”
Mr. Hydes stressed that the Dart group has satisfied itself that the impact of turtle grass removal would be minimal.
According to Department of Environment benthic habitat statistics, the 180,000 sq ft. the applicant is seeking to remove represents a tiny fraction, less than one one-thousandth of our islands’ total seagrass coverage.