BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, June 29, 2007 – If developers have their way, they would bulldoze the last 81 acres of open green space on the south coast to make way for “development” but environmentalists believe that the predominantly swamp land should be preserved and turned into a national park.
With thousands of signatures on a petition to that effect, the Friends of Graeme Hall, Inc. announced this week that they had been formally incorporated as a charitable, non-profit Non-Governmental Organization (NGO).
“Incorporating as an NGO allows us to source private and international funding for the Graeme Hall National Park initiative,” said FOGH director Andrew Alleyne. “We hope that we will have an opportunity to partner with the Government of Barbados by contributing local and international philanthropic sector support, which will help pay for capital costs associated with the Park.”
He believes that international funding agencies such as the United Nations, European Union and others are more likely to provide grants and other support if they see a robust partnership relationship between government and an active NGO.
The proposed Graeme Hall National Park would permanently protect the last major green open space between Bridgetown and the Grantley Adams International Airport. It would span 81 acres of swamp land including a mangrove swamp. About 35 acres have been privately developed into the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary. The other portion is held by the Ministry of Agriculture. The initiative outlines many civil engineering improvements as well as walking and bicycling trails, fishing platforms, exercise stations, family picnic areas, educational pavilions and tree planting, and support to improve the side held by the Ministry of Agriculture.
“We have a significant one-time opportunity for both Government and stakeholders to create the newest and finest National Park at Graeme Hall. The South Coast is already the most densely populated area of our nation, and we think the new Park is important to Barbados in the same way Central Park is to New York, or Hyde Park in London. Not only will the National Park provide an environmental buffer to prevent damage to the sensitive ecosystem at Graeme Hall, but it would help revitalize the South Coast with safe recreational opportunities for the people of Barbados for generations to come,” said Alleyne.
The group believes it has a strong case for the area to be declared a national park. More than 6,000 people signed a petition to government and secondly, it is a protected area under the international convention on wetlands RAMSAR.