Objections grow over Smith Cove project

An artist's rendering of the planned redevelopment of Smith Barcadere. - Image: Courtesy of Save the Cove group

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 project, which had been dormant for some time, resurfaced when government issued the tender for phase one a few weeks ago.

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.

Objections regarding the redevelopment of Smith Barcadere are piling up. – Photo: Taneos Ramsay

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.

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  1. So the land was purchased by the CI government to preserve Smith Cove in its natural state (allegedly). Then someone decided, or already had an eye on it before the purchase took place (remember how swiftly it was completed), that the lot needs not one, but two phases of enhancements. Suddenly, a need for a wall, more parking, an office!!🤔, cabanas, etc. has appeared. Cayman residents didn’t ask for it, so apparently all enhancements aka destructions of natural environment are for visitors. Makes perfect sense. Heavily veiled purchase transaction “to preserve Smith Cove” was in fact a strategic step toward developing it further to accommodate cruise ship visitors. Really sneaky.
    Once we know who would occupy the proposed office, we would know who is behind the shameless scheme.
    Cayman residents were taken for fools.

  2. 2016 :

    “…….the premier gave credit to Planning Minister Kurt Tibbetts for negotiating with the owners to sell. McLaughlin said that the landowner had been very cooperative about the situation and the public purse was getting value for money.
    ……. once in public hands, the land would be marked as a conservation area.
    Despite the hefty price tag, there is significant community support for government buying the property because public access to beach and waterfront areas has been dramatically curtailed by the continued and relentless oceanfront development along Seven Mile Beach and South Sound.”

    Definition of conservation area:
    an area of land that is protected and that cannot be built on or used for certain purposes.

  3. To quote a well-loved song, “They paved paradise to put up a parking lot.” I used to go snorkel off Smith Cove on Sunday mornings while my partner was taking Mass at St Ignatius. We used to joke that it was my church. On a calm day I’d go way out to the wall and just float there relaxing (getting the week at the Net News out of my head!) before making the swim back in so she was probably correct. It’s a natural asset and you don’t have many of those left so leave it alone.

  4. My family have used Smith Cove since 1972 as we live within half a mile.
    It is imperative that another public meeting be held to discuss these latest plans. Some improvements may be warranted, but this valuable and scenic seaside location must not in any circumstances be used for a 45 space carpark which would be a travesty.
    I have already suggested that Govt acquire the undeveloped lot abutting the existing car park across the road. Additional parking is certainly needed but not on the seafront.