The development of the cruise ship pier on Tortola had been done in a vacuum, without adequate consideration given to the impact that a significantly increased number of visitors would have had on attractions and services on the island of Virgin Gorda.
That was the conclusion drawn by well-known Virgin Gorda resident, Shereen Flax-Charles, during a community meeting on her home island this week.
“We cannot look at development of Virgin Gorda or any part of the British Virgin Islands in a vacuum like we did with the pier park project that was looked at in a vacuum, and we on Virgin Gorda are suffering from it, with the influx of thousands of people everyday that we cannot accommodate properly,” Flax-Charles said, while she cautioned against the ongoing Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbour project also being done in a vacuum.
In response to Flax-Charles, political representative for Virgin Gorda Dr Hubert O’Neal stated that the island is indeed facing a number of challenges as a result of the influx of cruise ship passengers, especially at attractions such as The Baths.
“The question that Shereen raised about the influx of cruise passengers from Tortola to the Baths; that is a grave concern of mine as well, because The Baths is our greatest treasure; it has the potential to be a world heritage site. But, if it continues at the rate at which it is being used and abused, I don’t know what’s gonna happen. But we have to put some controls on what’s going on at The Baths,” Dr O’Neal told residents.
He further stated that he has expressed his concerns to the relevant authority.
“I discussed this with the National Parks Trust; this is is the Trust that actually controls the national parks including The Baths. They are now undergoing studies to determine what is the true carrying capacity of The Baths. When I say the carrying capacity, [I mean] how many persons can be at The Baths at any one time.”
Dr O’Neal further told residents that he supports the proposed increase in entry fee at The Baths in order to help control traffic, as well as to fund maintenance of the public attraction.
“It’s not just the beach alone that we are concerned about. Even the trail going down to The Baths; the constant trampling is going to destroy everything there along the walking trail. So, a suggestion was made of maybe creating a wooden pathway so that can absorb most of the foot traffic. I think that’s an excellent idea.”
“There is another idea to maybe develop some sort of a lift to lift persons down to The Baths instead of them walking down to The Baths… Maybe we should have guides… When we say guides, [we mean] trained persons who know about The Baths and areas that we need to protect so that persons don’t wander around destroying everything. These are ideas that we have to think about,” Dr O’Neal continued.
“The other thing too was the entrance fee for The Baths; it is only $3 [for each tourist]. That price was set since it became a national park back in 1983, I think it was. And the time has come now, because The Baths requires a lot more maintenance; it requires a lot more funding. So there is a suggestion of raising the entrance fee. And, by raising the fee too, maybe we can dissuade some of those cruise shippers from not using it. These are measures that we have to put in place to protect our greatest national treasure,” Dr O’Neal further told residents.
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