Artist renderings of enhancements at Smith Barcadere have been making the rounds on social media and drawing widespread objections from the public.
Based on the circulated images, which were included in tender documents issued by government for phase one of the project, the enhancements for the popular beach site include a new 45-space carpark, new restroom facilities, six deck platforms, walking pathways, accessibility ramps and mat, lighting, and two timber cabanas.
Taura Ebanks, beach-access advocate and Save the Cove founding member, pointed to the lack of information on the project from government officials.
“As the people of these islands continue to express growing concern with the redevelopment of Smith Barcadere, it seems only through the media’s diligence are we made aware of the movement on projects like this. It’s disappointing to experience ongoing uncertainty when it comes to the lack of proactive meetings and political representation from those we elect,” she told the Cayman Compass in a written statement.
The tender was highlighted last week in the Compass. It invites proposals for construction of a retaining wall, carpark, office and restroom facility.
It is unclear how many phases the project includes nor the overall cost for the redevelopment, as Compass queries on the project have yet to be answered.
Ebanks called for a public meeting on the project. “The people spoke up with over 3,000 signatures in three days to stop developers. The government responded by taking millions from the EPF [Environmental Protection Fund] and now Smith Barcadere is once again in danger from development the people have not even asked for,” she said.
The redevelopment project currently under tender relates to the land adjacent to the cove.
That land was purchased by the government in 2016 following a public campaign by the group Save the Cove, which secured more than 3,000 signatures in a petition urging government to protect the cove from development. It came as local developer Bronte submitted a planning application to build two blocks of condos on the northern part of the property.
Government stepped in and negotiated a deal to buy the property from owner TFG Cayman and the application was withdrawn. Government withdrew $5 million from the Environmental Protection Fund to buy the land.
Morne Botes, beach-access advocate and fellow Save the Cove member, said he, like Ebanks, is unhappy with the lack of consultation with the public on the plans, especially since they includes cabanas.
“The public also made their feelings heard loud and clear at the last meeting, NO cabanas,” Botes said in an email to the Compass following the publication of the project’s plans.
Botes lamented the lack of public consultation on the project. “I do wish MLA Barbara [Conolly] would have consulted with the public as she promised she would in person at the previous public meeting. Smith Cove is near and dear to our hearts and the public would like an input into what is planned at the public beach,” he said.
Commenting on the plans, Botes said he liked some of the elements depicted, once the impact on the existing landscape was minimised.
“From this current plan, I do like the planned sidewalk and extra bathroom if it does not interfere with the current trees on site. We go to the beach to enjoy the sand under our feet, so spending money on walkways is not necessary,” he added.