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[May 28/06 - Please refer to the Review Of The Environmental Impact Assessment - Bahia Principe done by Environmental Solutions Limited on the proposed Bahia Principe Hotel Resort Development, Pear Tree Bottom, St. Ann, Jamaica.]

From: NJCA [NJCA@anngel.com]
Sent: Sunday, April 17, 2005 11:21 AM
To: carimac@uwimona.edu.jm; djm@radiojamaica.com; letters@gleanerjm.com; westernbureau@gleanerjm.com; maraghg@jamaicaobserver.com; helenecoley@yahoo.com; feedback@jamaicaobserver.com; jisocho@jis.gov.jm; research@jis.gov.jm; John Maxwell
Subject: Moving letter about destruction of scenic north coast area

Dear Journalists / Editors,

 

I am the Executive Director of Northern Jamaica Conservation Association (NJCA).  In recent weeks I have been circulating information about the proposed Bahia Principe resort near Runaway Bay in St. Ann, and gathering public input on an Environmental Impact Assessment of this project, which proposes to build several 6- and 7-storey hotel blocks with a total of 1,918 rooms on an ecologically important coastal area called ‘Pear Tree Bottom.’   The site has been described as ‘unique’ on the north coast of Jamaica in terms of the richness and variety of its biodiversity and natural habitats, including dry limestone forest, river, wetlands, mangroves, estuary, seagrass beds, and spectacular coral reefs.  Generations of local people and visitors have enjoyed the beauty and tranquillity of this lovely spot, and the bay has been a study site for the Discovery Bay Marine Laboratory for almost 40 years.

 

I have received a flood of mail from local and overseas Jamaicans and friends of Jamaica expressing their shock and dismay at the prospect of such a large, high-impact resort being constructed at Pear Tree Bottom, but none of the letters has been more moving than this one from my own sister, Margaret Lee Sparkman, which I would like to share with the public.  I urge the people of Jamaica, in particular tourism interests, to heed her message about what international tourists really want, before every last bit of coastline in our ‘tropical paradise’ is swallowed up by massive hotels that will be the dinosaurs of tourism, unable to compete with destinations that protect and cash in on their most important assets – unspoiled nature and valued local communities.

 

Sincerely,

Wendy A. Lee

Northern Jamaica Conservation Association

PO Box 212, Runaway Bay, St. Ann

JAMAICA, W.I.

Tel / fax: 876-973-4305

E-mail:  NJCA@anngel.com

or NJCA@cwjamaica.com

 

Letter from Margaret Lee Sparkman to NJCA, 11 April 2005:

 

From: (address deleted for privacy)
Sent: 11 April 2005 01:40
To: NJCA@anngel.com
Subject: Pear Tree Bottom

 

Wendy, I just finished reading the information you sent about the proposed 'development' at Pear Tree Bottom and I am appalled. That the Jamaican government could think of planning to allow the destruction of one of the last pieces of coastal wetlands on the North coast, the nearby limestone forests, the turtle nesting beach and the reef offshore with such a monstrous development, is beyond me.

 

How could the Minister of Development take the risk of allowing the construction of such an enormous project that will undoubtedly destroy the fragile environment, irreversibly damage the ecology and ruin the tranquillity and beauty of Pear Tree Bottom and the surrounding areas? Why so big? Why so many rooms? Why THREE hotels?

 

Do you think that the Minister of Development cares what the local people feel about such a potentially destructive construction project?

 

As you know, we bring many visitors back to Jamaica every year with us on vacation and frankly, we were all getting tired of the same old resort theme: loud music all day and night, shopping at the souvenir stores, smelly jet skis and boats along the beaches, and the many ne’er-do-wells that hang around the big resorts just tormenting visitors. We wanted to get back to nature and have some peace and quiet.

 

We went to Belize!

 

Someone there had the foresight to think of saving a gorgeous stretch of the coastline from the ravages of giant resort developments and hoards of tourists. Now it remains beautiful and natural for the Belizean people and the environmentally conscious visitor.

 

As most of us know, Belize has a large percentage of its territory designated as protected or preserved. Far away from Ambergris Cay and the other bustling commercial areas, we spent a small fortune to drive over bumpy, dusty roads for hours and stay at the Jaguar Reef Lodge Resort near the mouth of the Sittee River and the small, quiet village of Hopkins.  Remote, unspoiled, charming.

 

Jaguar Reef Lodge is considered a small, expensive, luxury resort. There were no phones in the rooms, no TV's on the premises and no loud sound systems going night and day. We listened to the birds and the waves lapping at the beach.

 

All around us were acres of swamplands and mangroves just teeming with birds and wildlife. Not far off were caves to explore, historic Mayan ruins, remote jungles and of course one of the world's greatest barrier reefs.  

 

The accommodations were beautifully furnished, very comfortable cabanas and low buildings that blended well into the scenery. There were a few flowering shrubs but mostly the landscaping suited the salty, sandy climate and people could see and appreciate the local flora.

 

The food choices were a bit limited but we had ample healthy food and gladly gave up giant buffets to be in such a beautiful remote area. There was absolutely no night life or entertainment other than a visit from some of the charming villagers one evening but when you have had a day of hiking, bird watching, caving, kayaking or scuba diving which began at 6am, it's great to go to bed early.

 

One of the best things about the trip was the hotel staff. They welcomed us there. They were hospitable, polite and lovely to be around. There was no crime. No one begged from us or tried to sell us anything. They were mostly from the local village and had been specifically trained for and by our hotel. They were proud of their jobs especially the tour guides who were very knowledgeable about the flora and fauna.

 

Twelve of us went on this trip to Belize and even the four teenagers with us could appreciate the fact that the people in the government and tourist business there were doing their best to accommodate visitors without compromising either the natural environment or the local people's way of life.

 

Good luck and please, work hard to save another corner of Jamaica from being mashed up.

 

Love,

Margaret

 

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