Dear Journalists /
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.
212, Runaway Bay,
Tel / fax:
Letter from Margaret Lee
Sparkman to NJCA, 11 April 2005:
(address deleted for privacy)
Sent: 11 April 2005 01:40
Subject: Pear Tree
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
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
you think that the Minister of Development cares what the local people
feel about such a potentially destructive construction
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.
went to Belize!
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
choices were a bit limited but we had ample healthy food and gladly gave up
giant buffets to be in such a beautiful remote
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.
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.
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.