Thursday, Jul 18, 2019
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Open letter to prime minister on the sale of Lighthouse Point to Disney

Dear Editor,

Dear Prime Minister,

I am a 71-year-old, semi-retired entertainment lawyer residing on Orrs Island, Maine. For the last 45-plus years, I have been fortunate enough to take winter vacations in The Bahamas. In the last 10 years, I have discovered the natural beauty of Eleuthera. On each trip to Eleuthera, I generally drive down once or twice to the southernmost tip of the island to experience the beauty of the iconic Lighthouse Beach, truly one of the most beautiful unspoiled beaches I have come across in my world travels.

On my most recent trip to Eleuthera in February, I was greatly perturbed to discover that your government is apparently going to permit Disney resorts to purchase Lighthouse Point and develop it into a Disney resort. To put it plainly and simply, this proposed development will destroy the pristine beauty of this natural landmark beach. During my two-week trip to Eleuthera in February, I did not encounter a single local resident who favored this project.

The so-called benefits which Disney’s development will bring to local citizens in South Eleuthera are minimal at best – it is estimated 125 jobs at most. I would like to suggest that the Bahamian government could do far better by imposing an eco-tax on incoming visitors from the States, which could finance permanent jobs for local Bahamians to fix local governmental buildings and clean up the environment.

If this tax were imposed on 750 visitors a week landing at Governor’s Harbor and North Eleuthera airports, it would generate $75,000 a week in revenue or almost $4,000,000 a year in revenue – enough to generate money for 125 jobs each paying over $30,000 a year.

One of the few things a president or prime minister can do to make a lasting impact beyond his own term in office is to set aside land for public parks and preserve them from development. In my own country, much of President Teddy Roosevelt’s reputation as an environmentalist comes from the fact that he was largely responsible for establishing our National Park System.

In recent years, President George “Dubya” Bush established the 140,000-square-mile Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, off the northwestern coast of Hawaii as a natural wildlife preserve. Similarly, President Barack Obama established the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah setting aside 1,350,000 acres from development, as well as the Gold Butte National Monument in Northern Nevada, setting aside an additional 300,000 acres from future development. These are lasting legacies of American presidents preserving important geographical areas in pristine conditions and preventing them from being commercially exploited.

Your government’s apparent approval of Disney’s proposed project is short term and will not benefit in the long run the Bahamian people. As for myself, if this project continues to go forward I will have to rethink my decision of returning to Eleuthera for my winter vacations. When I travel to Eleuthera for two weeks in February, I wind up making a decent investment in the local Bahamian economy – house and car rental, food, restaurants, local facilities. Although the Disney resort might bring in income to the local economy, you should also take into account the income which Eleuthera will lose when travelers like myself make alternative travel arrangements.

Allowing a project like this to proceed would bring lasting damage to Eleuthera and its environment. It would be the equivalent of permitting Disney to build a theme-parked bridge with entertainment and shopping facilities over the Grand Canyon.

I would hope that the Bahamian government would reverse its position on this project and take immediate action to preserve Lighthouse Beach for generations to come.

– Peter S. Matorin

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