Public access to a small section of mangrove wetlands in West Bay is being touted as a potential solution for the successful maintenance of a natural area which is among six sites on Grand Cayman slated for consideration as protected areas under the National Conservation Law.
“Nominations of lands to be protected can be submitted to the National Conservation Council annually, and any purchases that are agreed are paid for using the Environmental Protection Fund,” the Department of Environment states on its website.
Under Section 9 of the National Conservation Law, landowners of adjoining properties and the general public are invited to submit written views on sites which have been nominated to become Protected Areas.
According to the nomination document posted on the Department of Environment website, the nomination covers two Crown-owned parcels of land lying between Salt Creek and Little Salt Creek, on Grand Cayman’s West Bay Peninsula.
The land includes mangrove communities, dry cay areas, and a small segment of rocky shrubland on the coast facing North Sound, accessible by MRCU dyke roads and canals.
The nominated site consists of two adjoining Crown parcels on the North shore of Salt Creek, with shorefront also facing North Sound, and Little Salt Creek to the north.
According to the nomination proposal, the protection of this land will provide a small oasis of land in a natural state within the largely developed West Bay Peninsula.
“It will become increasingly valued by local communities as a place to reconnect with and enjoy the island’s natural environment,” it notes.
The proposal notes the site is home to two species important to Cayman, the Grand Cayman parrot and the other being the tiny mosquitofish, Gambusia xanthosoma. According to an article by David Greenfield in the May 3, 1983 edition of the academic journal Copeia, specimens of this little fish collected in a mosquito control ditch in 1980 were discovered to be a previously undescribed species of Gambusia, a type of fish found throughout the Caribbean.
According to the proposal on the Department of Environment website, “MRCU dyke roads within the parcel provide a framework which could be adapted to help make this area an important natural recreational area, with opportunities for walking, running, shallow water snorkeling and kayaking.”
The proposal notes protection of the lands will not only offer up welcome recreational space, but will also safeguard natural habitat for birds and offer a representative range of habitats characteristic of the West Bay peninsula, along with maintaining mangrove nutrient flows to the North Sound.
“Management of the Salt Creek mangroves is inherently quite simple, but is liable to be heavily influenced by surrounding land use changes,” notes the proposal.
“Securing public access to the land in the long term will be essential to its viability as a recreational area for residents and tourists.”
The proposal also notes that a Conservation Agreement with the owner of adjacent lands would be beneficial to the potential of the area for public enjoyment.
“It is possible that maximizing the potential of this area both for biodiversity conservation and for its recreational value, would best be achieved in close cooperation with surrounding development interests, whose future inhabitants may be among the primary users of the protected land,” the proposal notes.