Why it is Important to Save Lighthouse Point in Eleuthera
By Azaleta Ishmael-Newry
Apr 25, 2013 - 4:00:52 PM
A view of the most southern tip of Lighthouse Point and it’s surrounding land. The lighthouse and Big Pond can be seen in the background. Photo provided by The Nature Conservancy
One of few un-spoiled ecosystems left on Earth
Nassau, Bahamas – Land disputes, protecting the environment, sustainable development and the future for Eleuthera are making headlines. The Island of Eleuthera is becoming an important economic hub and the sale of a large parcel of land at the southern tip that is known as Lighthouse Point (LHP) requires close examination. It has the one of the best beaches in the Bahamas and untouched land where habitats, important scientific research and artifacts lay.
The One Eleuthera Foundation’s petition to “Save Lighthouse Point” and its surrounding areas that make up 720 acres has gained local and international attention. The petition garnered 1600 signatures within one month on the One Eleuthera Foundation’s Facebook page. And, while Bahamian Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Perry Christie has mentioned the petition in the House of Parliament, more action needs to take place to save the land from the wrong kind of development like a gated community or mega resort.
Prominent Bahamians, ordinary citizens and foreigners have signed the LHP petition that states, “Archaeological and scientific findings have been significant and as reported this place is considered to be one of the most important, unexplored archaeological and scientific sites in The Bahamas.” The nearby Millars Slave Plantation has artifacts that date back to the early 1780’s and traces of the Lucayans can be found in the ruins of old Bannerman town and at Lighthouse Point.
A group of scientists said that "The Bahamas is an ecological paradise on Earth and there are only a few ecosystems like this (Lighthouse Point) that remain." The natural beauty of LHP is powerful and as one student said, she "Felt in touch with God" during her visit there.
The Big Pond area in Bannerman Town that is adjacent to Lighthouse Point is filled with a largely undisturbed rare hyper-saline lake that is researched for scientific purposes. In the background are ruins of a historic building. The One Eleuthera Foundation would like the land preserved as part of a National Park and historic site. Photo by Azaleta Ishmael-Newry
Errol McPhee who hailed from nearby Bannerman Town and signed the petition said, “There were many major developments on Eleuthera and as economic hard times came upon us, the investors left. It is time for eco-friendly investments that will include the residents and descendants of Eleuthera.”
Although the One Eleuthera Foundation is at the helm of this fight, it is The Eleuthera Land Conservancy (ELC), a non-profit organization that works towards the protection of Eleuthera’s terrestrial and marine resources that is raising money to purchase Lighthouse Point. Others that support the cause include The Nature Conservancy, The Bahamas National Trust, Island School, and BREEF.
“We want successful, sustainable and responsible development in Eleuthera and I think our Prime Minister understands this,” said Shaun Ingraham, the CEO and founder of the One Eleuthera Foundation. "We would also like a natural park established so that Bahamians and visitors can enjoy the space. Much like Clifton, we should have a Lighthouse Point National Heritage Park.”
In 2009, Professor Pieter T. Vissher of the Marine Sciences Department at the University of Connecticut and a group of scientists wrote a letter to the former Government advising of the grave implications of misguided development. Vissher along with other scientists from the US, Germany, The Netherlands and Switzerland have 60 years of research experience and authorship on several hundreds of scientific papers as well as over $20 million in combined research.
These are excerpts from Professor T. Vissher's letter: "Lighthouse Point on Eleuthera could possibly turn into a construction site that will alter the surrounding coral reefs, beaches and perhaps most importantly, the hyper-saline lake (Big Pond) near Bannerman Town. Granted economic development is critical in securing jobs, improving infrastructure, etc., but at what cost? We hope that a development can be designed using the unique ecological properties of Lighthouse Point while preserving the scientific integrity of Big Pond so that the Bahamian people will retain this for generations to come."
Visitors explore the remains of the lighthouse at Lighthouse Point. Located at the southern tip of Eleuthera, it one considered a historic site that has Lucayan artifacts. The One Eleuthera Foundation has launched a petition, “Save Lighthouse Point” and would like to see the area made into a national park. Photo by Azaleta Ishmael-Newry
"Big Pond harbors many answers about the origin of life, climate change (that is recorded in the layered sediments at Big Pond), and even offers windows in deeply routed medical research questions. The ecosystems are similar to the earliest life forms we know on Earth, going back three billion years. If ever we want to unlock the secrets of what happened to life, and to our planet over the billions of years that shaped it, we need systems like Big Pond. Survival of the sediment ecosystems could lead to the discovery of new chemicals, potentially with medical applications like antibiotics. Space scientists at NASA also helped sponsor research at Big Pond and they believe that the mud of Big Pond will help in interpreting rocks on Mars and beyond.”
Another important commitment to preserving Lighthouse Point and the Big Pond area lies in the Caribbean Challenge Initiative (CCI) that the Bahamian Government signed committing to protect 20% of the marine and coastal habitats by 2020. The Nature Conservancy has invested $20 million dollars in return for a commitment from the 10 Caribbean countries to support and manage new and existing protected areas.
Under the CCI, The Bahamas expanded Andros West Side National Park from 185,032 acres to 1,288,167 acres to protect creek, mud flats, sand flats and mangrove forests that are important habitats used by elusive bone fish and tarpon during their life cycles. (TNC website). There are still no designated conservation areas on Eleuthera.
On April 20, 2013, Executive Director of the Bahamas National Trust, Eric Carey tweeted, “BNT Council passes Resolution supporting protection of Lighthouse Point. Strong message. Hands off Mr unsustainable developer!”
The zoning bylaw for such land: “Prohibits any use of land and the erecting, locating or use of any buildings or structures on land (ii) that contains a sensitive ground water feature or a sensitive surface water feature; Prohibits any use of land and the erecting, location or use of any buildings or structures within any area defined as – (i) a significant wildlife habitat, wetland, woodland or area of natural or scientific interest or (iii) archaeological resource.”
One Eleuthera Foundation’s founder and CEO Shaun Ingraham took a group on a tour of Lighthouse Point in Southern Eleuthera in The Bahamas. They want responsible and sustainable development and not a gated community for the area. Photo by Azaleta Ishmael-Newry
Eleutheran, Shaun Ingraham reminds us, “Eleuthera is losing a lot of its recreational areas to construction and Lighthouse Point may be one of them.” Once purchased and appropriate sites protected, development would follow the preservation, low impact and compact waterfront models presented in “A Shared Vision” (pages 44 to 75).
The plans include easy access for visitors, jobs for the local community. They would include work for construction persons, cooks, landscapers, scuba divers, fisherman, maids and tour guides. Other entrepreneurial opportunities would include those who partake in rentals for boats, bikes or scooters. The site would also have local artisans and visitors would enjoy a true heritage tourism experience.
Suggestions to the Government of The Bahamas include: 1) Maintain the road as a crown road; 2) Maintain all public access to all beaches; 3) Protect Big Pond Under Section 23 (i) (e); (f) and (g) of the Planning and Sub-Division Act; 4) Declare a portion of the offshore areas as conservation area; and 5) Make a monetary contribution to purchase the land and establishing infrastructure.
The Island of Eleuthera is becoming an important destination for multi-million dollar development as is evident with the opening of the 25-acre Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve in Governor’s Harbour in 2012, and recently the refurbishing and reopening of The Cove Eleuthera.
A view of Lighthouse Point Beach in Southern Eleuthera. It is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in The Bahamas. The One Eleuthera Foundation secured more than 1600 signatures for the “Save Lighthouse Point” petition. Photo by Azaleta Ishmael-Newry
On April 25, 2013, the Inaugural Business Outlook will be held in Governor’s Harbour followed by “A Celebration of Earth and Partnerships” on the 26th and 27th and during that time, more dialogue will take place.
The battle to save Lighthouse Point has heated up as the marketing for the proposed development at Lighthouse is becoming more aggressive. Attention has peaked as well due to the land dispute between prominent Bahamian developer Franklyn Wilson and approximately 500 members from the Bannerman Town, Millers, John Millers and Eleuthera Association regarding ownership of 2000 acres of land in nearby Wemyss Bight.
The One Eleuthera Foundation, a non-profit established one year ago has completed many projects that improved healthcare, infrastructure on the Island and created jobs. They recently secured a $25,000 grant that helped refurbish Ocean Hole in Rock Sound which will be rededicated this Earth day weekend and a $37,000 grant from the Susan G. Komen Foundation to help promote awareness of and testing of breast cancer. Since their start, the OEF has received $500,000 in direct or pass through grants that benefit Eleuthera. More information on the One Eleuthera Foundation and their work is available on
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