Casuarina trees removed around South Sound dock

A stump is all that’s left of one of the five Casuarina trees cut down near the road by the under-construction Vela condominium development. – Photos: Jewel Levy

People who questioned the removal of casuarina trees in South Sound last week got their answer from Ken Thompson, one of the owners of Davenport Development.

Mr. Thompson told the Cayman Compass on Friday that the company received permission from the Ministry of Planning, which went through the National Roads Authority and Caribbean Utilities to have the trees removed.

He said Davenport, which is building the Vela condominium development right across from the South Sound dock, was told by government to remove the bigger trees that were closer to the sea because they were damaging the parking lot and sea wall at the dock. The ones on the roadside were removed to make way for new utility poles.

Casuarinas, known locally as weeping willows, are fast-growing, invasive evergreens that thrive in coastal areas. They are not native to Cayman.

“We thought we were doing a good thing, but people seem to be upset abut the whole thing,” Mr. Thompson said, in explaining why the trees were removed.

“The smaller trees across the road from Davenport Development have to be removed – not for us, but to accommodate how Caribbean Utility’s lines would run in the redevelopment of the area,” Mr. Thompson said.

“The three light poles that are actually positioned there are in a bad place. The land is very long for the lines to run from pole to pole, so CUC wanted to move the section in the front of Davenport to the other side of the road in the re-development of the South Sound dock,” he said.

He also said Davenport has given government the beach property alongside the dock for expansion.

A casuarina tree near the water was also cut down because its roots were starting to damage the parking lot.
A casuarina tree near the water was also cut down because its roots were starting to damage the parking lot.

“In the redevelopment of the South Sound dock, government wants to put in a 10-foot sidewalk, which would run up the road to the other development taking place. In the long term the new light poles would facilitate all the people who run, jog and enjoy that stretch of road,” he said.

The dead casuarina tree lying in the water on Davenport’s property was cut up and taken away, Mr. Thompson said. Stuart Mailer of the Cayman Island National Trust said casuarina trees, although messy at times, do provide shade for those who visit the beach.

“Casuarina trees are not a Cayman native tree. They are also called the Australian pine. In some countries they are considered to be invasive and illegal to plant,” he said. “They are very beautiful and feel good when the wind blows through them.

“They provide good shade, but there are two things against them in a coastal setting,” Mr. Mailer said. “Right along the beach they don’t provide the shore stability that the seagrapes do and they get undermined very easily in rough seas. The other thing is – they litter the ground with needles and suppress the growth of other native vegetation. It is always a shame to lose any trees. I personally like the trees and they provide shade and people that use the dock would like to have a bit of shade.”

Mr. Thompson said his company was willing to provide government with native trees such as seagrape and coconut trees when redevelopment begins at the dock.