Calico Jack’s owner Handel Whittaker is seeking permission to remove around 180,000 square feet of sea grass to create a swimming area at Barkers Beach as part of a plan to relocate the popular Seven Mile Beach bar.

The proposal is linked to a 21-acre parcel of beachfront land owned by the Dart group, which is supporting his application.

Mr. Whittaker, who has an agreement to lease the land, hopes to create a venue that will attract cruise-ship tourists to the western side of the island.

The Coastal Works Application, seen by the Cayman Compass, also includes plans for a T-shaped pier stretching 300 feet into the ocean, with a 120-foot dock for tour boats and visiting pleasure craft.

The application, which will be decided by Cabinet, with input from the National Conservation Council, requests approval for the “removal of sea grass to facilitate swim beaches” over an area equivalent in size to around three football pitches and stretching across a 1,300 foot parcel of beach. It has already attracted some opposition, including an online petition which had gathered 1,000 signatures by press time Wednesday.

Mr. Whittaker said he believes the venue can be a “great facility for cruise ship passengers, tourists and locals,” that will bring business and opportunity to West Bay.

He said clearing the sea grass was necessary to make the beach accessible.

“People don’t want to go to the beach and not be able to swim,” he added.

The lease for the existing site of Calico Jack’s on Dart-owned land at Seven Mile Beach expires at the end of 2020 and Mr. Whittaker hopes to be able to reopen in the new location soon after.

A sunset view of Barkers Beach in West Bay. – Photo: Chris Court

Dart Real Estate issued a statement in response to questions from the Compass about the project indicating that it supports the application and is still in separate talks with government over a proposal to protect 279 acres in the Barkers area as a national park. Dart and government are the principal landowners in the Barkers peninsula.

Dart’s statement said, “As the Cayman Islands’ tourism needs continue to grow, the Barkers area in West Bay presents an option for low-impact tourism development. Sustainability for Dart Real Estate is top of mind and the company is sensitive to the biodiversity that exists in areas of Barkers.

“Dart Real Estate believes that thoughtful public beach amenity projects can co-exist in proximity to the area earmarked for the proposed Barkers National Park.

A change.org online petition urging government not to grant the coastal works license highlights the fact that the coastal area is in a Replenishment Zone and cites the threat of erosion caused by previous instances where sea grass was removed.

Some of those who signed left comments suggesting they felt the Barkers area should be left untouched and was an important area for camping. Others highlighted that sea grass is an important habitat for marine life, including turtles.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Unless Dart has a legal obligation to offer Mr Whittaker an alternative site on expiration of his current lease, this raises a suspicion that they feel this development in an environmentally sensitive area is more likely to receive favorable treatment coming from a Caymanian applicant.
    Clearly given the seedy reputation of Barkers in the past, it is desireable that some parts of it should be made available as an area for tourists and locals to enjoy, but ripping out vast swathes of turtle grass is not a good way to start.