Local environmentalist Dr Cassandra Titley-O’Neal has claimed that parking lots are occupying some of the most expensive coastline properties in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), adding that the territory may need to reconsider how it utilizes its shores as it pushes towards proper development.
“I don’t know how many of you are actually aware [that] most of our coastline – we actually have parking lots. They are the most expensive parking lots anywhere in the world if you look at the costs of land close to the shoreline,” she said during a meeting held this week as part of a European Union-funded assessment to help chart a better course in the BVI towards development over the next 20 years.
Dr Titley-O’Neal, during her presentation at the meeting, showed photographs of how she thinks shorelines are better utilized in other countries.
“These are some picture of a boardwalk along the coast of a place that I lived for four years – St John, New Bronswick,” she said. “Basically, the persons who own land along the shoreline – they created a boardwalk that people can come out and walk, ride bicycles, walk dogs, bring the kids out; and this is an example of where possibly we could be heading – to a coastal zone, a coastal front which will be inviting not just for the residents but also for the tourists; and to enhance your tourist product in the process.”
Dr Titley-O’Neal also mentioned another place – San Antonio in Texas, which she said doesn’t have the sea that is available in the BVI. “They have a river. And what they did is recreate the waterfront. They put in canals where you could sit on the boats and hear about the history of San Antonio.”
She added that there are also cafes and restaurants on the San Antonio waterfront. “People are beginning to change the whole coastal zone atmosphere; and that can be beneficial not just to tourists, but for locals,” added Dr Titley-O’Neal.
However, another resident who attended the meeting, Cindy Rosan-Jones, cautioned against what she said is any plan to commercialize the BVI coastline.
“I would never like to see our coastline as commercial; it is creating a lot of problems around the Caribbean…” Rosan-Jones said, adding that access to beach is a thorny issue here. “It’s really a problem right now, so I would never ever like to see our coastlines become commercial – or just commercial.”
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