Policy Initiatives: International Issues: Bahamas: Clifton Restoration Launched

Mindell Small, Guardian Staff Reporter
September 2, 2005

After several months of planning, the restoration of the Clifton Heritage Park (CHP) in southwest New Providence, is underway, said chairman Sean McWeeney.

During a press conference at the Park on Wednesday, Mr McWeeney said CHP constitutes one of the most important historical, archaeological and cultural resources in The Bahamas.

In 2004, parliament passed an Act to provide for the establishment of a corporate body, the Clifton Heritage Authority, with responsibility for owning, managing and preserving the area.

“Clifton Heritage Authority has been actively pursuing its statutory mandate, ever since its formation several months ago,” said Mr McWeeney.

Pericles Maillis, a board member of CHP, said the Clifton Heritage area was a place of ‘great natural beauty’ and great historic interests.’

“Some of it needs restoration and remediation. Some of it has been degraded – dumped upon and so forth – but overall, it covers a wonderful set of natural assets and human historic assets.”

He said, included in the natural assets were nature trails, cliffs, beaches, coral reefs, a logwood swamp, two wetlands, within short swimming distance and the nearby Tongue of the Ocean.

“And mixed with that is tremendous evidence of the historic geography of the use of the place, going back to logwood plantations,” Mr Maillis said. “We have begun the work. Historic buildings have now been cleared so that they can be stabilised. We’re getting rid of trees, which can act as hammers and levers in hurricanes, which might be right ahead of us.”

Mr Maillis added, that the cleanup and restoration of the area, would be progressing fairly quickly with the help of volunteers, through The Bahamas National Trust.

“The great cleanup is going to start shortly and hopefully it will be the last,” he said.

He also encouraged the public to abide by the laws of the country, by not dumping garbage in the area. With garbage still piling up in the area, CHP has erected a sign across the street from the park which reads: No dumping of garbage; no hunting; no removing of soil, sand rocks and trees; no lighting of open fires; no unauthorised use of site and no diving from cliff.

Also giving brief remarks at the press conference, were Dr Colin Booker, Consultant at Booker Architectural Design; Dr James Miller, former Chief Archaeologist for the State of Florida; Colin Higgs, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism; Eric Carey, Director of Parks and Science Liaison, at The Bahamas National Trust and Eleanor Phillips, Executive Director of the Nature Conservancy.

The Clifton Cay site received wide local and international attention in 1998, when the former government announced that several land developers, led by Chaffin/Light Associates and a company owned by the Bechtel Family, wanted to build a $400-million gated community of upscale residences, at the former slave plantation.

That announcement triggered an aggressive advertisement and education drive by the Coalition to Save Clifton Cay, which was adamant about protecting the site for future generations.

The group attracted the support of a number of political and environmental activists, including the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Bev Smith, former host of a Black Entertainment Television talk show, and environmentalist/lawyer Robert Kennedy, Jr, who visited the site in February, 2000, and promised to champion the local protesters’ cause in the United States.

Reprinted from The Nassau Guardian