A portion of Seven Mile Beach has a new face this week after a group of Casuarina trees was removed Friday in order to encourage beach replenishment.
The trees were removed by The Sovereign Condominiums on a suggestion from the Department of Environment.
Director for the Department of Environment Gina Ebanks-Petrie said that when Dr. Richard Seymour was brought to Grand Cayman in 2003 to look at beach erosion, it was evident that there had been erosion around the Casuarina trees at the back of The Sovereign Condominium complex.
Dr. Seymour is an expert in this field and an advisor to the Beach Review and Assessment Committee set up by the previous Government.
Mrs. Ebanks-Petrie explained that the owners of the condos placed boulders around the trees to try to protect them and help against erosion, but these boulders acted as mini headlands and only served to exacerbate the erosion.
‘It became clear to us after Hurricane Ivan that things were not going to get any better with the situation,’ she said, adding that if the boulders were removed the trees would topple.
Explaining that Casuarina trees, or Australian Pines, are not native to the Cayman Islands, she said that they have very shallow rooting structures. The problem is so pronounced that in Florida there is an active removal programme for them.
‘We’re encouraging the owners to plant sea-grape trees there, or something more suited to the environment,’ she said.
The hope is that now the sea can run back up the beach in a normal fashion and encourage sand replenishment.
Speaking about beach erosion in general, Mrs. Ebanks-Petrie said that before Hurricane Ivan the plan had been to import sand to refill Seven Mile Beach.
However, post-Ivan, Seven Mile Beach gained a lot of sand and at areas where the sand is stockpiled, such as the Public Beach, plans are in the works to begin sieving this sand to distribute it back on to the beach. ‘So rather than importing sand we thought we’d put what we have to good use and see how that works,’ she said.