Guana Cay Press and Articles
October 2, 2009
Abaconian Writes Deceptive Article on Bakers Bay
If you read the latest article in the Abaconian about Bakers Bay Club, you may be a bit confused. The article states that while Bakers Bay Club was in court for years with Save Guana Cay Reef, that all of that is past them now and they are now working together with Save Guana Cay Reef, and that they've upheld all of their environmental promises.
Of course, the article is deceptive, and was probably spoon-fed to the Abaconian by the developer. No, it is false to refer to court issues with Save Guana Cay Reef in the past tense, because those court battles are now at their height. Also, Bakers Bay Club formed its own 'association' called Save Guana Cay Association, which is designed to sound like Save Guana Cay Reef Association.
So, with an innocent writer, you can easily control what they say, by saying, "Yeah, we used to be embroiled in legal battles with Save Guana Cay, but now we're working closely with Save Guana Cay." Of course, the statement is cleverly deceptive - Save Guana Cay Reef vehemently opposes Bakers Bay, but Save Guana Cay is Bakers Bay Club's internal public relations mechanism.
Sadly, this sort of aggressive puppeteering works all too often, and these colonialist golf course developers are experts at the game of using local media to redefine the debate.
The loaded statement in the article about Bakers Bay keeping every promise is clearly false. There are years of evidence compiled that directly refute this claim in this blog and elsewhere.
Let the Abaconian know what you think.
The clip above strikes me as strange as well, because the tone of Bakers Bay is one of attempting to market a project by putting good spin on it. Check out the following bullet points and then reread the clip:
- Bakers Bay is behind on many of its construction goals. The marina was supposed to be complete a year ago.
- Locals have reported that only a very few lots have been sold in the past six months.
Sierra Club Responds to Southern Boating Magazine
This summer, Steve Dodge, a writer who often writes about Abaco, wrote the following about Bakers Bay Club in Southern Boating Magazine, a magazine about yachting in the Southern United States and the Caribbean.
What's new? Bakers Bay Club is again under construction after a lengthy legal and political battle. The principle opposition from a group called Save Guana Cay Reef argued that the golf course fertilizer would kill the reef lying northeast of the cay. They also protested that some crown land was leased to the developers, arguing crown land should only be leasted to Bahamians.
A judge's decision cleared the path for the developers to resume. We all know that development forever alters natural places, but the developers of Bakers Bay have an environmentally sensitive culture and promise to preserve as much of the area's natural beauty as possible. Instead of killing local trees and plants with bulldozers to build roads, the plants and trees have been dug up and moved to a nursery to be replanted later. Thousands of orchids and bromileads were are also saved while invasive trees and plants have been removed.
The golf course will be planted with paspalum grass, which does not require large amounts of fertilizer and can actually be watered with brackish water if necessary. The entire course is designed to drain inward to a lined retention pond. The greens will be built with lined catch basins and water and fertilizer will be piped to the retention pond where both will be recycled. According to the plan, the entire community will be served with reverse osmosis water and the first sewage treatment system in Abaco. Homeowners will be permitted to clear only 30 percent of their land for the house footprint, and will not be allowed to bring in exotic plants.
One of the biggest departures is that waterfront property owners will not be permitted to build docks; they will use the marina for their boats. The beach will, for the most part, stay the way it is. The marina, which is expected to open in late 2008, will accept transfers for overnight dockage as well as lunch it will have the first pump out station in Abaco. Things are going to change at Bakers Bay- a temporary increase in barge traffic for one thing- but the end result should be the most environmentally sensitive development ever built in Abaco, and preserve a favorite cruising ground.
The article contained errors in logic, and so both both Troy Albury and myself responded to it in letters to Southern Boating:
Letter from Troy Albury to Southern Boating
In your May 2007 issue you cover Abaco. Obviously you have obtained information about the development at Bakers Bay on Guana Cay from the developer. The environmental achievements that you claim for the developers area ll under question. Hundreds of acres of mangroves have been clear cut and filled in for home sites. You also did not mention that they have strayed from their Environmental Impact Assessment in the areas of waster management.
Numerous organizations have spoken out against the project and they will continue to do so. Each and every issue of your magazine covers some location that is deemed beautiful enough to be considered a great place for “boating”. Ironically it seems that you have forgotten that the areas themselves need to be preserved. There are many people who disagree with the developer’s assessment that the resort would be the most environmentally sensitive project ever built in the Abacos. Please visit our website saveguanacayreef.com for the other side of the story.
Troy Albury, President
Letter from Erik Gauger to Southern Boating
There are several factual errors in your article on the Baker’s Bay Golf & Ocean Club and it sounds as though the writer “took the bait” of the developer’s marketing propaganda. These falsehoods have been exposed by the press and in the court room. Contrary to the article in your magazine, legal action continues. Let’s be clear about one thing – Discovery Land Company’s Baker’s Bay megadevelopment is opposed by thousands of coral reef ecologists and scientists. The large imprint of this development, which is adjacent to a coral reef considered by scientists to be among the very best in the Bahamas , is wildly denounced by experts.
The author says that thousands of orchids and bromeliads “were also saved.” This is what visitors are shown. By destroying mangroves but keeping the orchids, Baker’s Bay will destroy the island’s only fish nursery. There are three endangered nesting sea turtles on the island. Eminent sea turtle conservationists and Jean-Michel Cousteau have denounced Baker’s Bay for the danger their plan poses to sea turtles. The author wrote about the golf course being planted with paspalum grass, but he misunderstands the facts and why it is not the magic solution the developers believe it to be.
I have spoken to many paspalum experts, and all of them would disagree with the author. Coral reefs are unique ecosystems in that they require a minimum amount of nutrients in order to survive. While I am in favor of development, no sane person can condone large developments adjacent to such pristine reefs. The boating community is aware of this issue and it is my understanding that the vast majority are against the Baker’s Bay Club because it is dangerous to this crucial environment and it is anathema to the qualities that make boating in the Bahamas a unique, rich experience.
Portland , OR
Steve Dodge responded to Albury and myself in the same issue. I will address the errors he made in his response after all letters to Southern Boating have been published.
Steve Dodge Response to Troy Albury and Erik Gauger
In response to the letters by Troy Albury and Erik Gauger, I wish to say that the views I expressed regarding the Baker’s Bay development on Great Guana Cay were formed after considering the Save Guana Reef position as the claims and plans of the developer. I continue to find the position of the developer more credible. Consider the following:
Baker’s Bay will be the only development in Abaco with a sewage treatment system and will have the only marina pump out station. Everything else in Abaco, as far as I know, utilizes septic systems, which leach into the water.
The density of the development is projected to be 358 unit for each 1.63 acres of land. It should be noted that build out will probably be 15-20 years, and that most of the residential units will be occupied not more than a few months each year.
Land owners may clear about 40 percent of their land for the residence. A coastal buffer setback of at least 50 feet from the beach or tup of the dune is in place and no docks are permitted along the beach. I continue to believe that this development is better that what might have been done – 1,000 half-acre lots with septic tanks and 40-100 docks lining beautiful Baker’s Bay beach. This is not just conjecture – the previous land owner’s master plan had two units/acre and a landing strip.
The highest court in the Bahamas decided in favor of the developer in October 2006. Some people think that an appeal to the Privy Council in London has a chance. As a practial matter, I don’t believe the case has great strength. The developer’s plans were reviewed and changed by the Bahamas Environmental Science and Technology Commission. The developer accepted these changes.
I find some claims in the letters opposing my position difficult to believe, ie. – “thousands of coral reef ecologists and scientists” and “hundreds of acres of mangroves have been clear cut.” I am aware that some reef ecologists oppose thr project; I do not think that thousands have done so. Some mangroves have been destroyed to build the marina, the marine village and some nearby homes – probably 70-80 acres, rather than “hundreds.” And 70 acres of natural mangroves have been put in a preserve monitored by scientists from the University of Miami .
Finally , I am also concerned about the possible adverse environmental impacts of all developments existing and new. I hope existing cesspits on the the outer cays and on Great Abaco are upgraded, and I hope marina pumpout stations become standard. I agree with the letter from Jean-Michel Cousteau and the response of (now) Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham posted on Erik Gauger’s website, and fully support careful monitoring. I would be happy if Baker’s Bay were never developed, but I do not think that is a rational hope. I think the proposed development is better than many alternatives. I believe that Great Guana Cay reef will continue to be one of the most beautiful places in the Bahamas .
In the November 2007, the Sierra Club responded to Steve Dodge with the following letter. The letter was signed by the IVP of the Sierra Club, and the Sierra Club's Coral Working Group team.
Sierra Club Response to Steve Dodge
We are responding to the recent letters regarding the Baker’s Bay Club mega-development on Great Guana Cay in the Northern Bahamas.
The Sierra Club has been following the Baker’s Bay Club development since 2005. The developer asserts this development will set high environmental standards for developments in the Bahamas. This worthy goal, however, is contradicted by the sheer scale of the development planned for Guana Cay. The core issues are whether a mega development of this size is environmentally and culturally appropriate for this slender, lightly populated island; and whether the rights of the affected communities to participate in the land use review and approval processes related to this development were respected. We support the efforts of the Save Guana Cay Reef Association to assert its legal rights related to participation in the approval processes required for this development, and their preference for a smaller scale development which would not include a marina or golf course.
The developer has pledged to follow an Environmental Management Plan including numerous actions to prevent or mitigate the numerous environmental threats identified in the Environmental Impact Analysis, and a monitoring and reporting system to track and report on any adverse events. To our knowledge, however, no such reports have been made public. If the required monitoring is occurring, the reporting has not been shared with those most affected, the residents of Guana Cay.
Michele Perrault, International Vice President, Sierra Club
Dr. Judith Lang, Sierra Club Coral Working Group
Dave Raney, Sierra Club Coral Working Group
Links Magazine Regrets Error in Island Debate
In its July/August 2007 issue, Links Magazine printed my letter, and added that they regretted the error their writer made regarding the Bakers Bay Club. After discussing the issue with Links Magazine staff, it became apparent that the freelance writer who wrote the summary of the Bakers Bay Club 'took the bait' of the developer's marketing material.
Bakers Bay Club marketing material is hilarious - designed for french poodle-toting bobos - it is sappy, poorly written and obviously devised to sugarcoat. But Bakers Bay Club marketing material is also insidious; and it is written without regard to the truth, and particularly without regard to the issues and environmental concerns the development is raising in the local and scientific communities.
Golfers who are opposed to the Bakers Bay Club should scour their publications each month and stay alert for further mistakes being written about the development. Pay particular attention to the Robb Report, and to special advertising supplement material in wealthy lifestyle magazines.
"Too much big-scale development..."
New York's The Buffalo News writes a piece on the Abaco Out-Islands. The author captures the importance of small-scale tourism in the islands. She also observes the irony of Bakers Bay Club. I enjoyed the quote about big resorts being all the same. I cannot stress to traveler's enough the misery that large developments inflict - both on the traveler and the community where these development are built.
This piece in the Buffalo News is also an important landmark, because it reminds us that there are no positive reviews of the Bakers Bay Club. The travel press are not blind - anybody writing about Bakers Bay Club does so negatively. There is no good press about Bakers Bay Club, anywhere, unless it has been paid for by Discovery Land Company.
Below are some quotes from the piece:
“Each island has its own character, and it’s different every time you visit,” says Kathryn Posten of Orlando, Fla. In contrast, she says, “Big resorts have beautiful scenery, but beyond that, they’re much the same.”
Another appeal: A notable shortage of “too much” – too much glitter, too much noise, too much business, too much big-scale development. Leave that to Nassau, the Bahamas’ busy capital on the island of New Providence, and nearby Paradise Island. The Abacos are the kind of islands Jimmy Buffett sings about: tiki bar havens where you hoist a brew with friendly locals while you catch Stone McKuen’s band’s seductive ditty, “Do Me,” or listen to the Barefoot Man’s CD extolling the virtues of Great Guana Cay. Miles-long curves of floury sand are marked by a single set of sunbathers or a few frolicking children.
...As in most places in this world, change is afoot....The government seeks a balance between preservation and tourism, say tourism officials, but just what that balance should be is a matter of debate. Upscale development has its critics, and the 585-acre luxury housing development Bakers Bay on Great Guana Cay has caused outrage among locals, who are concerned that runoff from the golf course will harm Great Guana’s reef.
Despite some commercialism and a few larger hotels, Great Abaco retains wild spaces that seem almost endless, where you can kayak, snorkel, track the rare Abaco Parrot and see the wild Barb horses, thought to be descendants of animals brought by the Spanish.
Southern Boating Factual Errors
I was surprised to read your article on the Baker’s Bay Golf & Ocean Club in the Northern Bahamas. There are several factual errors, and it sounds as though the writer ‘took the bait’ of the developer’s marketing propaganda. Let’s be clear about one thing – Discovery Land Company’s Baker’s Bay Golf megadevelopment is opposed by thousands of coral reef ecologists and scientists. Baker’s Bay Club is opposed by the Sierra Club and some of the most revered marine scientists in the world. The large imprint of this development, which is adjacent to a coral reef considered by scientists to be among the very best in the Bahamas, is wildly denounced by even the most conservative experts. For Southern Boating to say that Baker’s Bay has an ‘environmentally sensitive culture’ is simply a falsehood. These falsehoods have been exposed by the press and in the court room. Contrary to the article in your magazine, legal action continues.
The author says that thousands of orchids and bromeliads ‘were also saved.’ This is what visitors at the development are shown. But think about it – removing orchids out of an important mangrove area whose link to the coral reef is vital and then bulldozing those mangroves does not mean Baker’s Bay is saving anything. There is no ecological value to creating an orchid nursery. It simply sounds good to an uneducated audience. There are no endangered orchids or bromeliads on Guana Cay. However, there are three endangered nesting sea turtles on the island, and eminent sea turtle conservationists and Jean-Michel Cousteau have denounced Baker’s Bay for the danger their plan poses to sea turtles. By destroying the mangroves, but keeping the orchids, Baker’s Bay will destroy the islands only fish nursery, and destroy bonefishing flats which boaters sustainably use in small numbers each year.
The author wrote about the golf course being planted with paspalum grass. But he misunderstands the facts surrounding paspalum grass, and why it is not the magic solution the developer’s believe it to be. I have spoken to many paspalum experts, and all of them would disagree with the authors words. Coral reefs are unique ecosystems in that they require a minimum amount of nutrients in order to survive. While I am in favor of development, no sane person can condone such large developments adjacent to such pristine reefs. The Caribbean’s coral reefs have been severely degraded over the past 50 years due largely to developments like this one. The boating community is aware of this issue and it is my understanding that the vast majority of them are against the Baker’s Bay Club because it is dangerous to this crucial environment and it is anathema to the cultural qualities that make boating in the Bahamas a unique, rich experience.
April 2, 2007
National Geographic Honors Megadevelopment Fight
The March 2007 issue of National Geographic honored those fighting against megadevelopments in the Northern Bahamas. The article follows Sonny 'Doc' Gruber, a University of Miami marine biologist who owns and operates a lab dedicated to studying shark behavior in Bimini.
Bimini, like Guana Cay, is a small island that is being raped by an oversized American developer.
Bimini's story is especially sad: the development in Bimini has lashed mangroves; but Bimini is so tiny, these mangroves form the wilderness that supports both the island and its nearshore environment.
Of the beautiful photographs accompanying the National Geographic article, the photograph of the lemon shark in the mangroves particularly struck me, for Guana Cay has its own mangrove river, the biology of which is so similar to this one. The Discovery Land Company development on Guana Cay has already all but destroyed this crucial marine-terrestrial environment.
I will quote liberally here from the talented Jennifer Holland. Many people in the Bahamas are thankful for her important piece.
Gruber has been studying Bimini's lemon sharks for some 25 years, amassing a detailed database that's the largest for any shark population, anywhere on Earth. His findings on how sharks effect their environment and what they need from it confirm, along with numerous other studies, the life-giving nature of mangroves - which is one reason the biologist is fighting mad about a contentious and outsize resort elbowing its way onto tiny North Bimini Island. Condos, a marina, and a casino are already underway, and plans call for a waterside golf course. Local Bahamians are worried about their shrinking access to fishing grounds, as the seafloor is dredged and the land locked up in gated communities. Gruber has his own concern - the mangroves. "They'll all be wiped out if the developers have their way," he says. "The North Sound will be the 18th hole. You can have your mai tai there."
As recently as 2002, plans were in motion to set aside 5 marine areas to preserve the economic and ecological lifeblood of the Bahamas, with Bimini rated as the highest priority. But a change in government put off the project, and there's been no movement toward protection, despite angry prodding and accusations of corruption. Instead, giant resorts such as the one being built on Bimini have grown up on several outer islands. "The government is selling off this environment, cheap," Gruber says.
Note: I highlighted the reference to the Prime Minister Christie Administration, which is a defendent in the Great Guana Cay case against the Bakers Bay Club. Here, even the National Geographic refers to the callous disregard of the Christie Administration.
April 24, 2007
Editor of Links Magazine Apologizes to Notes from the Road
After Links Magazine wrote an article depicting Michael Meldman and the Discovery Land Company as the owners of Great Guana Cay, I asked them about it. The editor responded. Just as we thought, it looks like Discovery Land Company is telling these magazines that they own the island, and these golf magazines are not objectively critical of the marketing material being spun into their advertorials.
Links Magazine is not the first golf magazine to make glaring errors about the Bakers Bay Club. It is important to stay vigilant about all the golf magazines. Most of them are no longer writing anything on Bakers Bay Club. But if any of them does, it is extremely important to contact every single one of their advertisers if they publish false material about or from Bakers Bay Club.
Here is the response:Mr. Gauger: Thank you for your note regarding the ownership situation of Guana Cay. We hired a freelance writer for the note and apparently, he got some false information, most likely from the developer. We apologize for the error. We will talk to the writer and attempt to clarify the situation in an upcoming issue. If you have questions or concerns, please contact me at 843-842-6200. Thank you for your patience and understanding. Editor
Michael S. Meldman Distinguished Professorship in Conservation Scholarship at UNC, Daily Tar Heel Comments
The man who has in many circles come to be known as the most representative of environmental destruction in the Bahamas and perhaps the Caribbean has just teamed with the University of North Carolina to create the "Michael S. Meldman Distinguished Professorship in Conservation Scholarship."
Since Michael Meldman's megadevelopment is opposed by several of the most respected and influential conservation organizations and the entire coral reef community, it might seem ironic that a large American University would accept his money.
UNC accepted Michael Meldman's money and they put his name on their environmental professorship. But did they really know who he is?
But then, the subject of 'Rise Up Sweet Island' is the story of Meldman's Discovery Land Company - a company that has used unimaginable tactics to make their development appear the 'green good guys', even as mangroves are yanked from their roots and local rights are squashed.
Michael Meldman's megadevelopment is opposed by some of the world's foremost conservationists and environmentalists because its footprint is much, much, much too large for an island the size of Guana Cay; and because the project plans for the development mean the coral reef and unique ecosystem of the island will be destroyed.
It is all too likely that Meldman's donation to the Tar Heels is politically intentional; designed to offset the mounting press about his development in the Bahamas. Donors often donate in order to make up for some perceived personal weakness, or to correct a perceived weakness in the public's eye.
Douglas Crawford-Brown, Professor of Environmental Science and Policy Director for the new Institute for the Environment at UNC-Chapel Hill Chapel Hill, wrote a response to several who wrote in about the Meldman issue. He writes, "Precisely the reasons why we accepted the gift to help develop the studies and processes that will reform such practices, bringing conservation and development groups to a neutral table (the University) to find more balanced solutions."
The tone is ironic because it is very unlikely that UNC accepted Meldman's money "precisely" because he is a controversial figure who is damaging the Bahamian environment. It is much more likely that UNC accepted his money without knowing about the depth of the controversy.
Secondly, Crawford-Brown's statement that UNC could be a neutral table to find 'more balanced solutions' suggests innocence on this subject. Throughout the Guana Cay issue, Discovery Land Company has tried to create an air of neutrality: They have a website called saveguanacay.com that appears to look independent, but is a mouthpiece of the developer. They have an 'independent' group of scientists who monitor the environmental impact, but there is nothing independent about what they are doing. The EIA was made to look like it was written by the University of Miami. In fact it was written by paid consultants to Discovery Land Company, using University of Miami's name in a way that greatly upset the University.
A University that accepts money from Michael Meldman and plans to use it to create a 'neutral table' is certainly not neutral. It seems that Crawford-Brown has a lot to learn.
The Daily Tar Heel Chimes In
Today, the University's student run newspaper wrote an article about the issue entitled, "Donor attracts flak for Plans. Company's resort said to harm reefs."
Internatioanally recognized coral scientist Tom Goreau and Greenpeace Oceans Specialist were both interviewed, representing the locals of Great Guana Cay:
"The planned golf course and resort site have been bulldozed for the development, Goreau said. The sediment and nutrient runoff from the construction will increase the amount of algae in the surrounding waters, which damages the coral."
"Algae could take over the whole reef," said John Hocevar, oceans specialist for Greenpeace. "It's pretty hard for reefs to come back from that."
Dr. Livingstone Marshall of Discovery Land Company, who Meldman defers all environmental questions concerning Bakers Bay Club on Guana Cay, was interviewed as saying that the company has set up nurseries on the island to help preserve native plant species. Readers of 'Rise Up Sweet Island' no that this has nothing to do with good environmental practices, and is in fact fluff.
The dichotomy between Dr. Marshall's comments and those of Goreau and Hocevar speak volumes.
UNC Newspaper Offers Sharp Criticism for Mike Meldman, Discovery Land Company
The editorial board of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has some fighting words for Michael Meldman's ironic environmental contribution to the University.
In an editorial titled, "Do as I pay, not as I do", the staff writes,
"Is the University for sale? You might think so as you stroll across campus past academic buildings, dorms, libraries and stadiums all named for major donors.
On its face then, the funding of a professorship at the UNC Institute for the Environment by Michael Meldman, a resort developer, seems like just another business transaction. He coughs up a few million and gets a professorship in return. But even though Meldman might be no friend to the environment, having a professorship named after him still can be a positive development for the University..."
The article continues:
"Perhaps the most amazing part is the DLC attempts to pass itself off as an environmentally friendly development company. According to the DLC's mission on its Web site, each of its communities "will embrace the natural grandeur of their settings and celebrate the traditions of the land upon which they are built."
We'd love to know how killing the reefs embraces the natural grandeur, and exactly what local traditions will the multi-million dollar mansions, golf course and marina be celebrating? It seems unlikely that the 150 Bahamians who live on Grand Guana Cay and rake in an average $21,300 per year are accustomed to the golf and yacht club lifestyle."
I have an idea. The University should accept the money from Michael Meldman and use it to help the locals of Great Guana Cay fight to save their coral reef and mangroves. Good work University of North Carolina student journalists.Read the editorial here
Is Links Magazine Run by Idiots?
After reading this short article by Links Magazine, I have to ask, does this magazine have any editorial credibility whatsoever?
The article says that the island of Great Guana Cay is owned by Discovery Land Company. This is laughable and insulting to the people of Great Guana Cay, who have lived on the island for 200 years. Discovery Land Company acquired a portion of the land illegally.
Also, Disney never owned Great Guana Cay, or even a portion of it. During Disney's tenure, the land was owned by Meister, who sold it to Discovery Land Company.
It is likely that magazines like this take what these developers tell them at face value. In fact, Discovery Land Company likely wrote this article in its entirety, and paid Links Magazine for it. These magazines have no editorial integrity whatsoever.
Discovery Land Company likely wrote the article, and wants people to think that they own the island for marketing purposes. If you look at the map that Discovery Land Company uses to sell people on their development, the map actually shows the area where their property ends...as water, falsely making it look like their property is indeed an island.
Additionally, Discovery Land Company wants to make Disney look as bad as possible. So it is likely that they contrived this article for their marketing agenda of using Disney as the bad guy.
I have emailed with and spoken with the editors of some of the other magazines that feature Discovery Land Company. One publisher/editor let it slip that he actually wrote a quote of a Discovery Land Company persona.