Today’s Editorial for January 15: Undeveloped development

As incredible as it might seem, there is a plan, devised by the Cayman Islands Government, to build an extension to the East-West Arterial highway through the Mastic Trail Reserve and the Salina Reserve.

This is not a new plan, but one that became part of Cayman’s rather un-comprehensive Development Plan in early May, 2005.

Interestingly, neither the current Cabinet minister with responsibility for roads nor the minister from the previous administration with the same responsibility seem to know anything about the road going through two of Grand Cayman’s most sacred preservation lands.

Yet, all anyone needs to do is look at a copy of the Development Plan showing the East-West Arterial road extension (published in Wednesday’s Caymanian Compass) and you can see quite clearly that the proposed road cuts across the southern portions of the Mastic Trail Reserve and Salina Reserve on its way to the Colliers area of East End.

The Mastic Trail, an old historic footpath that runs from North Side to an area near the southern end of Frank Sound Road, is one of the few accessible places left on Grand Cayman where the residents and visitors can see and experience what the interior lands of this island are like. The Salina Reserve, in addition to being an important bit of natural land, is the primary habitat of Cayman’s endangered blue iguanas living in the wild.

This highway extension is only proposed at this point and at a later date, if and when a Road Gazette for the road is prepared, the issue of the possible impact on the Mastic Trail and Salina Reserve will be discussed. In the meantime, the National Road Authority, the Department of Planning, developers in the Eastern Districts and anyone else with an interest are all apparently working under the impression this road will go forward at some point in the future.

This is similar to what we saw happen with the extension of the Linford Pierson Highway to Walkers Road through the George Town Ironwood Forest. It was only after the bulldozers had started clearing the forest that public outcry stopped the project.

This cannot be the way forward for development in the Cayman Islands.

The first step is to pass and implement a National Conservation Law, something that has been promised for years. That law would require an environmental assessment be done for new roads to built. It could even require an environmental assessment for a new road to be included on the Development Plan.

Leaving the decision on whether to build any particular new road to a battle of public whim against political will when the bulldozers have already begun rolling is no way to plan development. We desperately need a proper National Development Plan and a workable National Conservation Law.