By Janice Hetzel, RG April 29, 2024

Last week, a government notice appeared in the Official Gazette announcing a proposed change of use at Southlands Park to create an events lawn for the Bermudiana Beach Resort. If approved, part of Southlands “will no longer be public property”.

This sets a dangerous precedent and makes us wonder what national park will be next. 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 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. Our parks are essential to the wellbeing of our community and every piece counts.

We ask everyone who cares about our parks to respond to the public consultation and make your voices heard.

Southlands is a 37-acre wonderland on the South Shore that provides an increasingly rare resource, a large swath of nature. As a national park, it exists for the benefit of the people of Bermuda as well as for the plants and wildlife that thrive within its borders.

As a valuable natural resource, all management should be for the betterment of the park and it should not be partitioned for the benefit of the Bermudiana.

Development continues to destroy our natural coastal woodlands, and we should endeavour to preserve all that remains. The Bermuda Plan has designated areas of woodland reserve for this purpose, and we expect our government to comply with these policies. It is irrelevant that the area proposed for development is only a small portion of the park acreage. Every patch of woodland is important. We must stop the insidious, piecemeal destruction of our woodlands and open spaces.

At the time of application in 2022, a terrestrial survey of the existing flora and fauna had not been completed. As far as we know, this survey has not yet been done. Our observations show that there are native and endemic species that will be destroyed to create the events lawn. These plants and trees are not easily relocated.

Not only will the plants be impacted but also the birds. In particular, the white-eyed vireo will lose valuable nesting habitat. The white-eyed vireo is a protected species under the Protected Species Act. The forest is a complex living system whose richness cannot be replicated by placing a few endemic trees at the periphery of an events lawn and surrounding it with a chain-link fence.

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