A grassroots movement to Save Barker’s Beach is gathering steam, in reaction to a coastal works application bound for cabinet. The group’s online petition has garnered more than 1,600 signatures in just three days.
The applicant seeks to remove an area of seagrass roughly three times the size of a football pitch to create a swim area, and install a 300 foot dock.
Riders on horseback take in the scenery along one of Grand Cayman’s last great unspoilt coastlines, Barker’s beach.
“It’s quiet and serene, it’s a beautiful location, untouched as you said, and it should remain so,” said Laura Egglishaw of Save Barker’s Beach. “It was a great place for families to come and spend time together on the weekends, so it means a lot culturally as well as the environmental impacts that this area has.”
Ms. Egglishaw told Cayman 27 the reasons why she’s standing up to oppose a plan for the 21-acre parcel of land that includes a 300-foot dock and removal of approximately 180,000 square feet of seagrass from one of Cayman’s largest replenishment zones.
In August the applicant, Calico Jack’s Hendell Whittaker, announced plans to relocate the business after the lease to its current site on Seven Mile Beach expires at the end of 2020.
“I’m for tourism, I’m in tourism, so I’m not knocking tourism, but when it comes to balancing it for our people and our environment, I can’t just stand for this, it is just not right,” said Spirit of the West owner Paul Rivers.
Mr. Rivers told Cayman 27 that a relocated Calico Jack’s could draw thousands of tourists, putting pressure on an environmentally sensitive area, and causing a domino effect.
“What is going to happen if Calico Jack’s or any other establishments started here, then this whole coastline is going to be dotted with establishments, and this whole coastline is going to be destroyed, this place is just too environmentally fragile to accommodate that kind of development,” said Mr. Rivers.
“The carrying capacity is going to be humongous amongst this replenishment zone area which is very fragile,” added Ms. Eggishlaw.
She encourages anyone who feels Barker’s beach should be preserved against development to add their names to the Save Barker’s Beach petition.
“I know a lot of people are aware of things that are happening and feel frustrated because they feel they can’t do anything, but I just want everyone to know that every single signature we get is important,” she said.
Mr. Whittaker told Cayman 27 Thursday (15 November) that he feels positive about his application. As for the backlash from some in the community, he said 15 years ago the opening of Calico Jack’s next to public beach caused an uproar. Now, 15 years later there is an uproar now that the business is leaving.
Dart Real Estate, who is backing Mr. Whittaker’s application, pointed out the 21-acre parcel is outside the 279-acre area that encompass the proposed Barker’s National Park and that thoughtful public beach amenity projects can co-exist in proximity.
“Relocating Calico Jack’s from Seven Mile Beach to the Barkers peninsula offers opportunity to enhance and diversify the jurisdiction’s tourism product for both residents and visitors,” said a Dart Real Estate spokesperson in a statement.
**editor’s note: an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the number of signatures the petition had garnered**