Since the Cayman Islands government has recently announced its plans to buy a land parcel adjacent to the popular Smith Cove (thereby guaranteeing the public use of the venerated area indefinitely) the nation’s government is now facing increased public pressure to purchase another piece of oceanfront real estate to rescue it from private development.
A company listed as Cayland Group Ltd. has submitted to the Central Planning Authority a planning application for a nearly fifty room project that includes a bar and swimming pool in the Barkers area that has been earmarked in the past for a national park. The plan for a Barkers National Park has long been in the works and would involve the Cayman Islands government buying land or partnering with land owners in the area to create a large protected park. The DOE has recommended that the CI government acquire these lands using monies from the Environmental Protection Fund. The proposed development of the property, they contend, would undermine the goal of a national park being created in the area.
The Department of Environment has recommended that the government do the same thing that it did for Smith Cove for the land in the Barkers area. The plan to make the Barkers parcel a national park has been a plan that has been in the works for 20+ years. The park plan was even dedicated by Great Britain’s Prince Edward on a visit to Cayman in the early 2000s and signage is already in place designating it as such. At that time, though, the authority to create a park of this nature did not exist. It took the passage of the National Conservation Law to give the government these powers and while they have already acquired some of the land there are still several non-government entities with significant land holdings in the proposed area. The Cayman Islands government would have to make purchases or land protection agreements with those landowners or the park could not be created. The aforementioned Cayland Group Ltd. is one such stakeholder and they have filed an application to build 24 one-bedroom units, 12 duplexes, a tiki bar, a management domicile and a casual dining bar with a pool on its portion of the land in the area. The application would also involve filling in a pond for a parking lot for the new development.
The Central Planning Authority has indicated in documents related to the matter that the landowner has been advised of several insufficiencies in the submitted plan and that these include the absence of a high water mark survey, encroachment on the mangrove buffer zone, the impact on the planned future national park and issues with how cars will access the parcel once the development is completed. The original idea for the park was predicated on the areas isolated tranquil location and the nature contained therein. It was a hope of the planners that people could enjoy snorkeling from shore, fly-fishing, camping, and day trips in the quiet and relaxing sanctuary.
The Cayman Islands government has been praised for its decision to act swiftly and save the Smith Cove area from encroaching development. Now the public is waiting anxiously to see if the same protections will be doled out for the pristine natural setting in the Barkers area.