It was once said by Cayman residents that if you got stuck in Meagre Bay Pond ‘you were a goner.’
Now Meagre Bay Pond, the small wildlife sanctuary once frequented by Caymanian hunters seeking a meal for the day, has a new look.
A team of workers led by Carlos Minzett from the Bodden Town cleanup crew recently cleaned the property.
But according to the National Trust and Department of Environment, clearing brush from the area puts nesting wildlife in jeopardy.
The exposed property and the pond’s tranquil beauty and nesting birds have also caught the attention of passing motorists who asked why it was hidden for so long.
For years, many visitors and residents passed this scenic stretch located in the middle of the island just past Pease Bay without knowing it ever existed.
Government protects the area teeming with wildlife such as a flock of rasps, pied-billed grebes, ducks, lesser scaup, teal, kingfishers, coots and home to a family of birds know as herons, stated National Trust Field Officer Stuart Mailer.
‘The surrounding brush is protection for the bird habitat while they are nesting. Clearing away the bush only exposes the bird sanctuary to noisy traffic and puts the wildlife in danger,’ he said.
‘Right now the pond is full of fresh water and this is the time you get a lot of wading birds looking for food and grabbing things off the bottom of the pond,’ he said.
‘We agree with the National Trust that clearing away the brush from around the habitat exposes the nesting area and puts the wildlife in danger,’ said Department of Environment Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie.
She said when the department found out that cleaning up was taking place around the protected area of the wildlife sanctuary, the Ministry was contacted and the cleaning was stopped.
‘Although the property around the pond is privately-owned land we just can’t go in with a machete and assume that we can clear away the brush. The Department of Environment should have been contacted first,’ she said.
Ms Ebanks-Petrie said the lesson to learn is that when undertaking these clean-up ventures around protected areas there are rules to be followed. ‘Hopefully we will learn from this and not repeat the same mistake,’ she said.
Although the government owns this mangrove-fringed lagoon, the land around it is private; no public footpath leads to the sanctuary.
Ms Ebanks-Petrie said the Department recommend that a narrow pass be cut somewhere on the side of the property so that people could have access.
The habitat is also home to a group of freshwater fish, the African perch, which are not native to Cayman.
Eighty-six-year-old Nell Connor from Breakers said the pond also contained freshwater tarpon some years ago.
She also remembers the property opposite the pond being used as a ground provision plot.
‘Yes sir, I remember those days, not even the donkey pack saddle could hold the amount of potatoes, pumpkins, guinea corn and local corn that came out of that patch of ground,’ she said.
‘And let me tell you, the rabbits were just as plentiful, which was a main staple those days. Those older men would not venture to go in the pond. Two boys belonging to Aunt Julia Whittaker nearly lost their lives in that pond. They took a dory out there one day to shoot pond fowl and if it was not for Livingston Terry catching sprat fish that day, they were a goner.’
Ms Connor said Mr. Terry heard them calling and waving their hands after falling in the pond. To get them out he had to throw a rope and slowly pull them to shore.
The freshwater pond dries out in the winter months and fills up again in the summer.
Early morning or late afternoon is the best time to view this waterfowl breeding area, with its various flocks of shore birds and migratory wading birds.