A passionate crowd showed up at the South Sound Community Centre Tuesday night for a meeting about the redevelopment of Smith Cove, also known as Smith Barcadere.
George Town South MLA Barbara Conolly was on hand to share the plans for a refurbished beach site, and the community turned out en masse to provide its feedback.
“Smith Barcadere is our beach,” said Ms. Conolly. “And it’s for all of us. It’s for our George Town residents and it’s for South Sound, but it’s for the whole Cayman Islands. The fact of the matter is, we want to own this. We don’t want this to be a Dart Park. … This can be our legacy. The people of South Sound, the people of George Town, we really need to have somewhere we can call our own.”
The property, which was originally donated to the government by the Webster family, is now ready to be expanded.
A recent purchase by the government from a private developer brings the Smith Cove site to 3.31 acres, and Ms. Conolly advocates combining all three parcels into one for the sake of zoning and legislation.
As of now, commercial activity and loud music is only prohibited on one parcel of the Smith Barcadere site, but the government would like to see those restrictions extended to the rest of the site.
A.L. Thompson, chairman of the Smith Barcadere Committee, detailed the many improvements that would come to the site as a result of the refurbishment. The committee would like to build new cabanas and bathrooms, and it would like to pave a new parking lot on the beachside of the road.
The proposal also calls for a pedestrian crossing from the existing parking lot to the beach, and it provides for sidewalks and curbs to restrict the hazards of road parking. The whole endeavor could cost $500,000, and the committee hopes to provide half of the funds through private donations.
“We’re looking at about a $500,000 investment to do it right. The government, as I understand, don’t have the funds to do it,” said Mr. Thompson. “To get down to brass tacks, we’re hoping to raise $250,000 to put into this project and we’re hoping the government will match it.”
Many of the residents in the audience supported the redevelopment of Smith Cove, but they wanted a chance to put their own stamp on the design.
There were people who spoke in favor of eliminating the cabanas from the design, and also others who spoke in defense of them.
Many speakers stressed the need for a lifeguard on site, and some questioned why the parking lot across the street cannot be expanded instead of creating a new one on the beach side.
Midway through the meeting, one resident suggested either a ramp or a Mobi Mat to aid disabled beachgoers, but Ms. Conolly stated that the public beach on Seven Mile Beach already contained that amenity.
Mr. Thompson, who grew up across the street from Smith Cove, said that he has seen much change in the layout of the beach over the last few decades. And he stressed that the people who want the beach to stay the same must aid in the redevelopment effort or risk losing the site forever.
“We can’t sit around and wait for government to do everything,” he said. “You want to keep it, you want to retain it, you don’t want to see it destroyed. If we leave it the way it is, if we leave it alone, it’s going to be destroyed. I can tell you that. We need some help. We need your help to put this together.”
A planned new building would contain a small office for an employee to watch over the facility, and Ms. Conolly said she would look into the feasibility of hiring a lifeguard for the site.
One speaker asked whether the improvements are meant to provide for the crowds currently coming to Smith Cove or whether they provide for an influx of future visitors.
“It’s public land. I have no idea how you can control overcrowding,” said Mr. Thompson. “The government will have to determine that. But the people are coming one way or the other.… If the property is opened up better, there’s more room for people to spread out.”
Former minister Kurt Tibbetts was one of the final speakers to address the crowd at the South Sound Community Centre, and he urged patience and tolerance in the redevelopment process.
“Listening to everybody here tonight and listening to all the diverse views … we must accept that probably no one in this room tonight is going to get exactly what they want when this project is finished,” he said. “And that’s how life runs in everything, including marriages and the whole works.…
“The one point I wish to make is, ‘let us be a little tolerant of each other, understanding the nature of the beast.’”