The Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce [BEST] has responded to the latest statement by Government about the proposal to use a section of Astwood Park for a youth scrambling programme.
“Bermuda’s parks are a scarce and precious community resource and the community must have a say if there’s a plan to change their use,” the statement from BEST said.
The Minister of Public Works Michael Weeks recently clarified the proposal, saying that plans for the area are still being formulated and currently in draft form. He also said that what has “been proposed is not a ‘scrambling track’ as such and would be better described as a small, circular and flat ‘kiddie track’ for peddle bikes and motorized bikes for 4-8 year olds.”
The full statement from BEST follows below:
BEST is encouraged to discover that there is widespread public concern and care for Bermuda’s public Parklands in general and Astwood Park in particular. More and more of our citizens are recognizing that Bermuda’s parks are a precious resource that belong to us all.
Our initial media release served its purposes, a) to alert the public to a potential environmental threat and b) to engage foresight on the problems that might arise if the scheme was followed through to worst-case conclusion.
We reject accusations of misinforming the public:
1) The claim is that our referring to the site as “Astwood Park” gave people the impression the site was the highly used coastal area of the park.
Response: The original purchase was of a single site occupying land on both sides of South Road, named Astwood Park. Also,the Bermuda Plan 2008 designates entire area as Astwood Park. Had we referred to it as anything else it could have been confusing. Our Press release specified “the northern segment of Astwood Park”, a technically correct designation that could be misunderstood but was clearly not misinformation.
2) A second claim was that the area proposed for the scheme was not, as we posited in our press release, farmland. The farmer who actually farmed that plot in the 70s and 80s confirmed to BEST that ALL that northern segment of the park was farmed. We restrict everyday developers from encroaching on farmland and there is every reason to protect public arable tracts.
3) The third claim was that by including the term “motocross” we exaggerated the scheme. Judging by the Minister’s latest description of the scheme, the word “motocross” may not fit, and it is good to know that no racing is intended. However, having been informed of the takeover by big boys and adults with big bikes who race at the scrambling track east of Palmetto Park in Devonshire, we feel justified in sharing that image.
Dealing now with the Works Ministry’s 7 points published in online media:
1. The park is being used [sic] for the mini scramblers for the younger kids – not the larger motocross cycles
BEST response: bigger boys and adults on bigger bikes have taken over other sites, and when authorities have been called, by the time they arrive the culprits have gone.
2. The area MP canvassed the area and approached the Ministry on their behalf and the area residents had no objections to this area being used as a track
BEST response: Which area residents? 1) Minister Bean also said “nothing will be done without consent of the residents.” This needs clarification: Who is being included in “residents”? How many residents will have to consent? One? Some? All? Who will determine which residents’ consent is sought and tallied, and how will that be determined?
3. The park will only be used from 4 to 6 pm/Monday to Friday
BEST response: Is the Parks Department really equipped to be the organisers/supervisors of the track? Who will monitor the inevitable unauthorised users who will want to get access before- or after-hours or on weekends?
4. This will be on a one year trial basis with a view to assess the programme thereafter
BEST response: What criteria will be set up to assess the program me?
5. The organizers have agreed to stop the programme at any point during the evening should the area residents express any concerns
BEST response: Who qualifies as “area residents”? And will they really stop it for “any” concerns? These undefined terms are likely to cause problems.
6. The track for the actual programme has been designed by the Department of Parks technical personnel which takes up very little space in the park
BEST response: When will this “actual programme” be made public?
7. The Ministry of Public Works is working with the youth in the area to offer a positive outlet.
BEST response: As the track is being designed for 4 – 8 year-olds, are these the youth the Ministry is working with? Or does this point refer to an older group and have no relevance to the kiddie track?
There are also a number of questions we would like to hear the Ministers address:
1) Minister Bean said the project was necessary because the area had been neglected and was overgrown with “African Pepper” (he meant Mexican Pepper, I’m sure) and cane grass and was fouled with trash. Whose responsibility is/was it to prevent or remedy the neglect and overgrowth? Whose responsibility was it to enforce regulations prohibiting dumping of trash? Are they really saying that because the parkland was neglected that the penalty is the parkland is its destruction? Surely that can’t be right. The Parks Department is understaffed, otherwise they would have been able to keep that area as trimmed as the rest of Astwood Park. Parkland must not be given over to other uses simply because its upkeep was deficient.
2) If cycling by youth at the nearby Jones Village playground was a nuisance, as the Minister said, what is to prevent this same activity from becoming a nuisance at Astwood Park? What is to prevent this facility being taken over by bigger kids on bigger bikes as happened at the scrambling track east of Palmetto Park in Devonshire?
3) Does the Minister have the support of the Parks Commission and the Departments of the Environment and Conservation Services? We ask this because when the Warwick Long Bay decision was on the cards, the Parks Commission’s advice was suppressed: it wasn’t made available to the DAB nor the Independent Inspector brought in to advise the Minister. It only showed up a year or so later due to a Court Order. As a result, important advice was unavailable to inform an important decision.
Finally, we welcome Senator Fahy’s offer of assistance and are ready to take him up on it. However, there’d be no need if everyone played by the rules. According to the Parks legislation, a scrambling track is inappropriate use for Parkland. If the Minister wants to change the rules, that calls for procedures to be followed and consultation much wider than with BEST alone, and much wider than area residents. Bermuda’s parks are a scarce and precious community resource and the community must have a say if there’s a plan to change their use.
- BEST Concerns: Astwood Park Scrambling Plans
- SDO: BEST Commends Ombudsman
- Public Works Ministry: Astwood Park/Scrambling
- BEST Concerns Over Housing Ministry
- BEST: “Unable to Support the Revised SDO”
- Ministry Responds to “Malicious Allegations”