Photos: Southlands Restoration To Get Underway

September 23, 2013

[Updated with photos & video] The Departments of Parks and Conservation Services are working together to produce a restoration plan to turn Southlands into a National Park, Junior Environment Minister Senator Alexis Swan said this morning [Sept 23].

In 2005 businessmen Craig Christensen, Nelson Hunt and Brian Duperreault bought the Southlands estate from the Willowbank Foundation and planned to develop a resort.

This plan was met with resistance from segments of the public who wanted the property to be retained in its natural state, so a deal to swap Southlands with Morgans Point was worked out.

Mr Christensen, Mr Hunt and Mr Duperreault plan to build a luxury resort at Morgans Point, while Southlands — which at 37 acres is about the same size as the Botanical Gardens — will be turned into a National Park, and the plans were highlighted a press conference this morning.

L-R: Vice Chair of Friends of Southlands Grace Young, Director of Parks Lisa-Dawn Johnston, Director of Conservation Services Drew Pettit, Acting Premier Michael Dunkley, Senator Swan, BEST Chairman Stuart Hayward, Chair of Friends of Southlands Dr Kuni Frith-Black:

southlands presser sept 23 2013

Senator Swan said, “The Department of Parks will be responsible for the day-to-day running Southlands National Park and has already done some major clean ups of the site to remove dumped litter and industrial rubble. In fact they have recently erected gates, which we will see before us today, which will put a stop to rubble dumping.

“The next step is for the estate to be incorporated into the Parks Act through legislation for it to become a ‘public park.’ This is expected to be done within the next couple of months when it comes before the House of Assembly.

“Much historical research and numerous site visits have been undertaken to come up with a ‘theme’ for Southlands and we hope to begin an extensive public consultation process on this in the near future to hear the public’s views and suggestions,” continued the Senator.

“What we do know is that it has much potential to hold both native and endemic species of vegetation and also be an amenity park for passive recreation.

“The pristine woodland and coastal estate is home to a unique collection of natural life and history. Within these 37 acres there is every possible habitat that Bermuda has – apart from mangrove.

“There are ponds, a stretch of stunning coastline and sheltered quarry sites as well as wooded hillsides and numerous historical sites of interest such as the graveyard and old buildings.

“In short, Southlands is a Bermuda treasure. There is something here for everyone,” said Senator Swan.

Slideshow showing 40+ photos of some of the Southlands property today:

BEST Chairman Stuart Hayward also spoke at this morning’s press conference, saying: “BEST has a special attachment to Southlands — it was here that BEST cut its teeth in our role as environmental activists and protectors of Bermuda’s dwindling open spaces.

“We are therefore pleased to join with FOS and the Departments of Conservation Services and Parks for a week of restoration and clean-up that will we hope hasten the conversion of Southlands into a National Park.

“The restoration will run from Monday, 21st October through Wednesday, 23rd, with Thursday and Friday being reserved as rain dates. Conservation Services will be supplying expertise and management for the clean up plan and BEST will be seeking out volunteers and companies to donate time and equipment toward supporting the teams from Conservation Services and Parks.”

Senator Swan’s full statement follows below:

Good morning,

Let me begin by saying how pleased I am to be here today, speaking on behalf of the Minister of Environment and Planning the Hon. Sylvan Richards JP MP, on the rebirth of Southlands into a National Park…one of which Bermuda can be truly proud.

Our Ministry has as its Mission to “Lead Bermuda towards sustainability by protecting our natural and built environment.” Essentially, it is our role to ensure that there is balance between Bermuda’s Social, Economic and Environmental needs.

That is why this Government made it a priority in the 2013 Throne Speech to commit to the creation of Southlands National Park – something which will inevitably benefit us socially, environmentally and perhaps even economically.

It certainly represents a wonderful opportunity to create another open space for the enjoyment of Bermudians and visitors alike.

Numerous studies have shown that parks and open spaces play a vital role in the wellbeing of the residents which live in those areas…in terms of stress reduction, anger management, boosting creativity, and promoting a general sense of happiness.

They provide a quiet place for reflection, somewhere to go to spend time with family members and friends…to exercise perhaps…a retreat away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life…and create a sense of personal wellbeing.

We need these spaces….especially in a country as densely populated and developed as Bermuda. Only Macau, Monaco, Hong Kong, Singapore, Gibraltar, the Gaza Strip and the Vatican are more crowded than Bermuda.

In fact the Government’s Sustainable Development Plan states that two-thirds of Bermuda is covered by land uses that involve built development. Residential development consumes almost 45% (6,000 acres) of the Island.

Our sustainability is enhanced by the creation of protected natural spaces such as Southlands and preserving them for future generations.

So thank you to our partner, Friends of Southlands, for keeping this very important national issue at the forefront of everyone’s mind…public feedback is critical in creating a space which is the best fit for our island.

As many of you will be aware, the Departments of Parks and Conservation Services are working together to produce a restoration plan and a management plan for the property…which is roughly the same size as the Botanical Gardens.

The Department of Parks will be responsible for the day-to-day running Southlands National Park and has already done some major clean ups of the site to remove dumped litter and industrial rubble. In fact they have recently erected gates, which we will see before us today, which will put a stop to rubble dumping.

The next step is for the estate to be incorporated into the Parks Act through legislation for it to become a “public park”. This is expected to be done within the next couple of months when it comes before the House of Assembly.

Much historical research and numerous site visits have been undertaken to come up with a ‘theme’ for Southlands and we hope to begin an extensive public consultation process on this in the near future to hear the public’s views and suggestions.

What we do know is that it has much potential to hold both native and endemic species of vegetation and also be an amenity park for passive recreation.

The pristine woodland and coastal estate is home to a unique collection of natural life and history. Within these 37 acres there is every possible habitat that Bermuda has – apart from mangrove.

There are ponds, a stretch of stunning coastline and sheltered quarry sites as well as wooded hillsides and numerous historical sites of interest such as the graveyard and old buildings.

In short, Southlands is a Bermuda treasure. There is something here for everyone.

Of course this wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for Bermudian businessmen Craig Christensen, Brian Duperreault and Nelson Hunt who helped to facilitate the land swap agreement which saw the estate passed from to Government in return for Morgan’s Point.

In closing I would like to encourage people to attend the fund raiser that FOS will be hosting at the National Trust property at Waterville on October 18th…and also to reiterate this Ministry’s commitment to preserving the Southlands property for future generations.

Thank you.

-

BEST Chairman Stuart Hayward’s full commments follow below:

As the President of the Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce (BEST), I wish to extend our thanks to Kuni Frith Black for her leadership of the FOS, especially for seeing the need to involve Southlands’ neighbours and even the wider community in caring for this incredible oasis in a Bermuda that is incrementally becoming more crowded and more in need of undeveloped open space.

BEST has a special attachment to Southlands — it was here that BEST cut its teeth in our role as environmental activists and protectors of Bermuda’s dwindling open spaces.

We are therefore pleased to join with FOS and the Departments of Conservation Services and Parks for a week of restoration and clean-up that will we hope hasten the conversion of Southlands into a National Park.

The restoration will run from Monday, 21st October through Wednesday, 23rd, with Thursday and Friday being reserved as rain dates. Conservation Services will be supplying expertise and management for the clean up plan and BEST will be seeking out volunteers and companies to donate time and equipment toward supporting the teams from Conservation Services and Parks .

If there are individuals and/or companies that wish to support this restoration effort by supplying manpower and or equipment please contact the BEST office.

Saturday, October 26th will be the ‘Open House’. we will invite members of the public to visit and view the property on that Saturday and share in our vision of its potential – what’s in store for the neighbourhood and Bermuda when it will be finally opened as a public park.

The Open House will include tours designed and/or conducted by David Wingate to show the remarkable features of the property. BEST will be selling T-shirts ‘Celebrating Southlands’. We will be inviting other NGO’s to set up stands around the main house to showcase their organisations.

From late afternoon until late evening we will be hosting a beach party and bonfire with live entertainment. It will be a special occasion.

Of course you’ll be hearing more about this as we get closer to the time. But for now, set aside the night of Friday October 18th for the jazz concert-slash-wine & cheese tasting, and the week leading up to Saturday October 26th for sprucing up the property and enjoying the setting of what will be this newest addition to Bermuda’s parks.

-

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Comments (21)

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  1. BEST ever! says:

    Bermuda is indebted to BEST, and most especially Stuart Hayward, for their
    determined efforts behind the scenes to save this stunning property for
    us all and for generations to come.
    This is the BEST news this year!

    • frank says:

      it,s fools like Hayward and best who are hindering development in this country that hotel would have been open by now if it was my property I would have built the hotel and to hell with best their like the national trust trying to stop development at east broadway

  2. Terry says:

    So the Hunt goes on.
    Morgans Point is going to be what.
    Funny how things work out with BEST.
    They never tried to save a polluted Naval Base.

    • sonso says:

      because it is exactly that bredren! a polluted naval base, you see any bases or pollution around Southlands?

    • Micro says:

      Do tell me how it would make sense to “protect” a polluted brown-field site from clean-up and redevelopment?

  3. Winnie Dread says:

    Great news, toured the property during one of the Palm Sunday Walks and I think this is the best thing that could become of it. Imagine this place being poured over with concrete, carry on the job your are doing BEST.

  4. Talk and substance says:

    heels in the mud and dirt? tell me it ain’t so?

  5. Kirk says:

    I’m extremely pleased to see follow-through from the initial land-swap. As one of the most densely populated parishes, it is imperative that more green space is allocated in Warwick (note the vast urban sprawl to the east of the park culminating with the fugly Grandatlantic apartments!)

    Well done, and I look forward to the beautification of this extraordinary part of the island. We need more open space as one of the most densily populated place in the world!

  6. watching says:

    Definitely the friends and family plan here. LOL.

    On another note – what exactly is the big news? This decision was made under the PLP government. The OBA is just following through on it. Kudos for that but let’s not act like any decision was made.

    On a third note – people used to get upset when PLP members wore anything with green in it. Senator Swan is certainly rocking that red.

    On a fourth note – when is the gaming referendum?

    • haha says:

      go watch somewhere else…the PLP were the ones who wanted to develop Southlands.

  7. Vote for Me says:

    Where was (is) the Hon. Alex Scott. Remember that he was one of the champions of the swap.

  8. Dready says:

    The Director of Parks needs to stop posing and get our island maintained!

  9. Awake says:

    While this is a great idea, I find it hard to believe that the Department of Parks, who have a hard time maintaining the Botanical Gardens (which is not so botanical) and the round-a-bouts, in addition to other areas island-wide, would be anywhere near responsible for the restoration of this new park. As a constituent of Warwick Southeast, I’d like to say thank you to Mr. Jeff Sousa, who was my candidate a few years ago, for his involvement with this endeavor as he, along with many others, was very outspoken about saving our open spaces. Give credit where credit is due.

  10. SOS says:

    Kudos to Stuart Hayward and BEST for their brilliant work on this. Everyone on the island owe them a lot for sticking their necks out and doing right by trying to protect the few pieces of green space left in Bermuda.

    On another note, I completely agree with Awake that our Dept of Parks is so completely disfunctional and mismanaged, they will use this as another excure as to why they can’t get the job done. Overstaffed and under managed. If this were outsourced, the job(s) would get done by landscapers and it would end up costing a lot less because of of the cost of Gov. benefits. People are not afraid of being vocal about this as they are fed up.

  11. Watching says:

    The new govt is trying to make Bermuda better.Well done!

  12. Stuart Hayward says:

    Thanks for the kudos to me and BEST. We worked hard and it is paying off. Alongside the BEST team are the hundreds of people who participated in vigils, direct actions, writing letters and scripts, making phonecalls, and in countless other ways got involved. This was/is truly a community effort and we are proud to be on the frontlines.

    This latest push is being spearheaded by Kuni Frith Black and the Friends of Southlands (FOS). She and her team are also working hard. The combined efforts of all involved — government departments, NGOs, residents, elected and appointed leaders, and others — will result soon in Southlands being added to the register of National Parks.