Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Rendezvous Bay looks like it may be developed. The conceptual plan:

As many of you who follow my blog and Adventure Antigua know, our Xtreme Circumnav makes a daily stop at Rendezvous Bay. Back in 1995 when we added this tour to our other Adventure Antigua tours, we picked this beach because it was so hard to get to that it was a perfect spot to be alone. Our guests were treated to a deserted beach where things were as natural as they were when the Arawaks fished from there back before the Europeans arrived in the Caribbean.
Here is a little video for those who have never seen the bay. I am always surprised by how few Antiguans and Barbudans have been there.

The land along this huge bay is owned by several local families. For years the property has been for sale on the net and I had no doubt that one day there would be talk of development there. In fact, we have seen real estate people on the beach while doing our tour stop there many time. One xtremely wealthy person who had private chartered our boat was one of the people interested at one time. Anyway, one of local owners are Walters family and they have teamed up with some foreign investors and developers in order to develop their property. If you are Antiguan or know your Antigua history then you will remember that one of the members of this big family, George Walter, became Premier here back in 1971. Last year I received an email that was being passed around by the some in the Environmental Awareness Group where the described a new development that was being planned at Rendezvous Bay. The author of the email said that they all had to fight to make sure the development was blocked. This was my reply:

there isn't anything in this email to sink your teeth into really. What I mean is that as #$%^ says, development has been a real possibility for as long as tourism has been around and its actually taken considerably longer than many of us expected for it to come to this. This property is by far the best one for a big tourism development in Antigua from a tourism and developmental point of view. Even half moon bay pales in comparison. Without a huge shift in the political and cultural status quo, this development will surely happen as long as there is a fraction of the money needed to get it started. The vast majority of Antiguans clearly prefer tourism development over environmental protection. This is seen on a daily basis from our point of view out on the water doing circumnavigations and is perennially echoed from every political platform. #$%^ and others are dreaming if they think that they can do anything to bar a development of this magnitude from happening. The only thing to do is to try to influence the developer in the design and construction phases. How to do this will be up for debate but relying on the government's DCA, Environment Division, Fisheries, the NPA or any other division will be a wasted effort.
Keep in mind that our country is almost bankrupt and there are thousands of former construction workers and many others out of work at the moment at a time when most people still believe in perpetual development as being the only way our economy can survive. Sustainable Development is a fancy catch phrase about as realistic at this juncture in our history as stopping the development. Ten years ago I attended a tourism conference where many gathered were saying that we needed more development and more "attractions". I asked if the government and tourism stakeholders there considered an undeveloped beach an attraction. The conference hall erupted in laughter.
The environmental implications associated with this project are fairly serious, but similar serious threats are turned into reality monthly here without much if anything being done.
I think a very good article should be written that doesn't make the average person scoff as those tourism officials did at my theory of a deserted beach as an attraction all those years ago. It should be written in a way assuming the development will go ahead, but pointing out to people (and developer) what's so special about the varied ecosystems supported in the area giving examples of how similar systems were tarnished by other developments in the past.
Sad but inevitable I'm afraid.
Let me know if there's anything you or others concerned think I could help with on this issue.
I never got a reply and was not included in any emails on this subject again. Quite some time before this email some friends of mine who had felt that the EAG wasn't the right environmental group for us got together and started The Antigua Conservation Society and while surfing one day down near Rendezvous I saw a local architect I knew and a bunch of other people who looked very much like developers. I went to my car and took out a business card and approached them. I introduced myself and said that i had heard that the bay was about to be developed. We had a conversation and I explained that the ACS would like to meet with them to discuss the plans. Since then we have had several productive meetings and while no development at all would be best for the environment, we feel that the proposed development isn't nearly as bad as we had feared. They are in the very earliest of stages in this proposed development and there is so much more that can be done to make sure they have the least impact possible. We will be meeting with them again this week. In the meantime, feel free to read about here www.rbrec.com
Keeping in mind that this private property sits within the National Parks it will be interesting to see what the government does. There is a meeting in Nelson's Dockyard on Thursday. Call the National Parks for more info on this meeting.