The Barkers area of West Bay is an ecologically valuable coastal ecosystem with diverse features and natural beauty worthy of protection and conservation measures to ensure its sustainable use for present and future generations.
For this reason it has been proposed as Cayman’s first National Park. The proposal is strongly supported by the West Bay District Development Plan Review Subcommittee, whose Vision for 2011 includes “developing a large national park with absolutely no development at the Head of Barcus (Barkers).”
Currently less than 5% of land on Grand Cayman is protected. The establishment of Barkers National Park would add 277 acres of terrestrial habitat adjacent to 865 acres of already protected marine habitat.
Why a National Park?
National Parks are established for many reasons, including:
- To safeguard native species and habitats.
- As a means of ensuring the sustainable use of our natural resources, being fair to past, present and future generations.
- To study and celebrate our natural heritage.
- To contribute to regional and global conservation efforts.
- To encourage ecologically sound and appropriate use, understanding and enjoyment of the area.
The National Strategic Plan, commonly known as Vision 2008, contains the expressed wishes of the people of the Cayman Islands regarding their preferences for the future of development in these islands. In terms of the natural environment, the people wish among other things:
- To establish a system of Environmentally Protected Areas in the Cayman Islands.
- To protect the coral reefs of the Cayman Islands from further adverse human impacts.
- To protect wetlands of ecological importance other than the Central Mangrove Wetland in Cayman.
The establishment of Barkers National Park would go a long way toward meeting these expectations.
In 2011 the Barkers National Park project was taken on by the Office of the Premier and the Ministry of Tourism. While the Department of Environment is still committed to the creation of a National Park as part of a system of environmentally protected areas questions regarding current activities by the Government in the Barkers area should be directed towards the Ministry of Tourism and the Office of the Premiere.
- All low-impact ‘nature-tourism’ activities enhance present uses in order to maintain an atmosphere of relaxation
- Nature walks
- Bird Watching
- Dog Walking
- Horse Riding
- No restrictions to be imposed on activities south of the park.
- Allow businesses to bring tourists for day picnic etc and private vessels to beach in certain areas, ensuring those doing so have prior arrangement with park management to bring boat ashore.
- Create swim platforms offshore for recreational use, with access via kayak, pedal-boat or long swim.
- Devise a self-guided underwater snorkel tour of the area.
- No Jet-skis in northern zone, restricted to southern area outside of buffer.
- Regulation will largely be covered by the new marine conservation regulations.
- Currently, the marine area is regulated by Replenishment Zone regulations; however the Department of Environment is currently undertaking a Marine Parks review, which may result in changes to these protection measures.
- This review will come under a separate process, which will involve further public consultation.
Protection of this area has been prioritized because:
- Barkers represents a unique, diverse and environmentally valuable coastal ecosystem that already includes a marine protected area – the Barkers Replenishment Zone.
- The system of coastal ponds and wetlands is a microcosm of the larger Grand Cayman land mass.
- Its cultural importance and aesthetic appeal create the ideal area for relaxation, recreation, education and conservation.
- Barkers is ideal for becoming the first National Park in the Cayman Islands as the peninsula is surrounded by water therefore no additional terrestrial buffer zone is required.
- The park’s land and sea components would preserve the full spectrum of the mangrove-sea grass-coral reef continuum.
- The area has sufficient infrastructure in terms of access and would require minimal enhancement.
- It has the potential to diversify Grand Cayman’s land-based tourism industry in terms of a nature tourism product.
- Seven Mile Beach is becoming increasingly crowded and existing beach access and public open space elsewhere are currently insufficient for the recreational needs of a growing population.
- Within the park boundary is a prime example of low elevation Caribbean beach ridge, a native and diverse coastal forest community of ironwood, wild coco plum, silver thatch and other species, which is rare within the entire Caribbean Region.
- The ridge could have also provided burrowing ground for the planned establishment of the Blue iguana, one of Cayman’s most endangered species. (This is no longer as useful since the creation of the Eastern Blue Iguana Reserve and the infestation of green iguanas throughout the western half of Grand Cayman.)
- Its two ponds, Sea Pond and Palmetto Pond, provide feeding, breeding and migration grounds for many bird species.
- Offshore, the mangrove and adjacent sea grass beds are home to juvenile species of lobster, conch, and stingrays, as well as many fish species.