An environmental charity has urged the public to speak out against a proposal to turn a portion of a national park into an events lawn for a neighbouring resort.

The proposal would convert the southeastern corner of Southlands in Warwick into an events lawn deemed “integral” for the Bermudiana Beach Resort.

The Department of Parks this week launched a two-week consultation process for the proposal, which was previously denied planning permission by the Development Applications Board.

Janice Hetzel, president of the Bermuda Audubon Society, said the proposal raised serious concerns and would set a dangerous precedent for Bermuda’s parklands.

She said in a statement: “The public fought hard for Southlands and it belongs to the people of Bermuda.

“It is not acceptable to give away our parkland for the economic benefit of the adjacent Bermudiana Beach Resort, an unproven tourism venture.

“Although the Bermudiana Beach Resort is publicly owned, it will transition to primarily private ownership when the condominiums are sold.

“If the economic success of this resort depends on the events lawn, then we should all be extremely worried.”

The society argued that the coastal woodlands needed to be preserved and that there were alternative sites that could be used for the proposed event lawn without the same ecological impact.

“A large grassy area that is suitable for events already exists across the street on the northern side of the park,” Ms Hetzel said. “The cleared area to the west of the woodland could be enhanced for an events lawn.

“These spaces are available to the public and can also be reserved by the resort on an as-needed basis. The brownfield property to the east is currently undeveloped and has the appropriate tourism zoning.”

Ms Hetzel also raised concern about conflicts of interest for those involved in the process.

“The Ministry of Public Works has a clear conflict of interest as it is responsible for parks and also the Bermuda Housing Corporation,” she said.

“Several members of the newly constituted Parks Commission will also have a conflict as they have been involved in the development of the Bermudiana Beach Resort.

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