The Ministry of Commerce, Planning and Infrastructure has said it will begin enhancements to Smith Barcadere next month.
However, the ministry has assured work will mainly be done on the land purchased adjacent to the popular beach. “There will be no interference with the existing beach,” it said in a statement issued late Friday evening.
Last month, the Cayman Compass highlighted movement on the project after a tender was issued for phase one of the enhancement, which includes the construction of a retaining wall, a carpark, and adjoining office and restroom facility.
The announcement of the project drew widespread criticism from the public, including from members of the Save the Cove group, which was instrumental in highlighting the threat to the beach in 2016 when local developer Bronte sought to develop the area.
At that time, government stepped in and negotiated a deal to buy the property from owner TFG Cayman and the application was withdrawn.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.
On Friday, the ministry said the Public Works Department, which is carrying out the project management and consultancy services for the Smith Barcadere plan, “has underscored that the area being enhanced is primarily the parcel of land on the northern end of the property that was purchased by the government in 2016”.
Tender process ongoing
Tristan Hydes, deputy chief officer in the Ministry of Commerce, Planning and Infrastructure said in the statement that, as the tender process is ongoing, some information cannot be disclosed.
“The tender closed in January so we are in a position to share more information at this time, but we still cannot jeopardise the process,” he said. “We want to be as transparent as possible as this project is for the people, and so we will ensure that information is available to the public through several channels as we proceed with various stages of the plan.”
He said the proposed enhancements of the Barcadere public beach and park will be for the enjoyment of all Caymanians, with increased accessibility for older people and those with disabilities, reduced congestion, and improved safety.
George Town South MLA Barbara Conolly, in the statement, indicated that the project incorporated the public’s feedback from the July 2018 consultation meeting.
Late last week, a video from that consultation was posted on the government’s CIGTV YouTube.com page.
Conolly pointed out in the statement that Public Works is working to ensure concerns that were raised during the public consultation period will be taken into consideration.
“Smith Barcadere will be a park and beach where all Caymanians can come and enjoy. It is a treasured beach spot for families to swim and spend time together and our vision for it is to do what we can to enhance what we already know and love. We will be adding additional restrooms that will offer the disabled full accessibility, an improved parking lot and environmentally friendly lighting,” she said.
Conolly pointed out the proposed parking lot will be located to the northern end of the purchased parcel “so as to minimise loss of vegetation and not block the view of the sea. In addition, local material will be used for the parking lot instead of asphalt to support natural drainage.”
Sidewalks and traffic-calming measures are included in the plan to increase safety of pedestrians and users of the existing parking lot across the road, according to the statement.
“On the proposed project, restrooms will be located closer to the new parking lot for easier access for older persons and those with disabilities. The location of the restrooms is also to minimise any loss of indigenous trees,” it added.
“There are some non-native vegetation such as invasive ‘pop-nut’ trees that will be removed to allow for the construction of the parking lot. In addition, local vegetation such as coco-plum and grape trees will be added to improve shading and beautification,” the statement said.
When the initial plan was shared with the public, concerns were raised about how many cabanas were proposed for the project. The statement said the number of cabanas in the new plan has been reduced from eight to one.
Based on images which were included in tender documents issued by government for phase one of the project, the additions to the popular beach site included a new 45-space carpark, new restroom facilities, six deck platforms, walking pathways, accessibility ramps and mat, lighting, and two timber cabanas. It appears that plan has been modified.
The number of car spaces has been reduced, and paths that were in the tender documents do not appear in the artist’s rendering released with the statement Friday.
The statement said the Smith Barcadere Committee is managing the project and was formed specifically to administer the affairs of the project.
The committee, it said, has assured that there are covenants in place to restrict commercial activities on the enhanced park and beach.