Concerns Over New Four Seasons Resort In Grenada
Sandra Ferguson is convenor of Citizens in Defence of Grenada’s Lands & Heritage, a small pressure group of concerned individuals which formed in 2008. Their aim is to raise awareness and facilitate public debate on issues of development and environment. Its particular focus during the last year has been on a number of mega-tourism projects and other initiatives which threaten the rights of local people as well as Grenada’s built and natural heritage.
The Hog Island-Mount Hartman Development Project in Grenada is being undertaken by Cinnamon 88 and will eventually be managed by the Four Seasons hotel group. The development covers the mainland Mt. Hartman Estate, a National Park, and nearby Hog Island (also identified as a protected area). This 70-acre island has been owned by a local family for four generations.
According to Cinnamon 88, the development is “a 400 acre southerly coastal tropical woodland development incorporating 55 private island residences, 115 beach front marina and golf course villas, 18-hole golf course, spa, tennis academy and a 124-room Caribbean style hotel”. It will be the biggest Four Seasons resort in the world.
There are many controversial issues surrounding this proposed development. Among them are:
“there has been significant destruction of the Grenada dove habitat and mangroves to make way for a bridge joining Mt. Hartman to Hog Island.”
Violation of Grenada’s National Parks and Protected Areas – Mt. Hartman is a National Park and home to Grenada’s endemic and critically endangered species, the Grenada dove. In April 2007 the previous government amended the National Park and Protected Areas Act to allow Cinnamon 88 to develop land within the dove sanctuary. This elicited much protest nationally and internationally. In early 2008, the former of Minister of Environment announced that that government had arrived at a ‘win-win’ situation for the developers and the Grenada dove. However, the details of this arrangement have still not been disclosed to the public. Meanwhile, there has been significant destruction of the Grenada dove habitat and mangroves to make way for a bridge joining Mt. Hartman to Hog Island. Hog Island is also part of the National Park and Protected Areas system. It is a national landmark whose features are supposed to be preserved.
- Impact on the marine environment and local livelihoods – The area under development borders a Marine Protected Area (MPA), which contains some of the most pristine and significant mangrove stands left on the island. The mangroves are the nursery grounds for approximately 70 percent of the fish species that are fished in Grenada. Are more mangroves going to be cut down in order to create beaches and if so, what will the impact of this be on the livelihoods of local fishermen?
“In regard to Hog Island, there was no consultation or dialogue with the family in respect of acquiring the land. “
Lack of transparency – The previous government failed to engage in any public consultations or public disclosures in respect to this project, despite the fact that it involves selling off considerable state assets. In regard to Hog Island, there was no consultation or dialogue with the family in respect of acquiring the land. The issue of compensation by the government to the owners of the island remains unresolved. Cinnamon 88 began land clearing in 2007, in the middle of the controversy around the Grenada Dove. But it is still not clear whether Cinnamon 88 has ever obtained planning permission. An environmental study conducted for the developers was rejected by the World Bank and international bird experts.
- Displacement and alienation of local people – Hog Island is privately owned by a local family and was used for agriculture (particularly grazing) and recreation by the locals. A local beach bar operator is also being displaced. However, no one has officially spoken to these persons on issues of relocation and compensation
A bridge has been built connecting mainland Mt. Hartman to Hog Island. Fishermen are asking what the future holds for their traditional boat races around Hog Island and the Fisherman’s Birthday Festival activities on the island’s beaches. In Grenada, all beaches are public. Will local people still have access to the beaches on Hog Island? or will locals be deterred by the presence of security guards and dogs? as happens on nearby Calivigny island, now owned by Frenchman Georges Cohen.
Locals are expressing concern about traditional access to the beach areas on the Mt. Hartman development. Their right of way has been cut off by the erection of a gate at the entrance of the access road. There is now a feeling that locals are becoming strangers in their own country.
“I have been operating on this island for the last 20 years. I developed from scratch the ambiance that now exists on this island. Why am I not given an opportunity to partner in any development which will take place on this island? Why do I have to be displaced?”
- Roger Strachan, Roger’s Bar, Hog Island
Roger Strachan is a native of Woburn and operates the famous Roger’s Bar on Hog Island. He started it 20 years ago with a cooler of drinks selling to the picnickers and ‘yachties’ who came to the island. Eventually he set up a little structure on the beach, which came to be known as Roger’s Bar. There are special events and live bands at the weekends – an opportunity for locals and visitors to mix, while generating significant economic activity in the Woburn area.
Ironically, on the same site where Roger has his bar, the Mt. Hartman project website shows a poolside bar which will be named Roger’s Bar. Yet the man who created the original is being displaced and is viewed as an obstacle in the way of “progress and development”.
“Hog Island is our heritage. Our island should not be sold and developed. It should remain in its natural state and be accessible as a recreation spot so that my grandchildren can enjoy what I enjoyed”.
Adrian Charles – local resident and great grandson of the original owner of Hog Island