I would like to address several matters, as the deadline nears for public comments on the Disney Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for their proposed cruise port at Lighthouse Point in Eleuthera.
Lighthouse Point is one of the most beautiful and pristine areas in the world. It is recognized by Bahamians, non-Bahamians, environmentalists and travel organizations worldwide as a place to visit and admire. The proposed Disney development will not result in environmental or economic stability for Eleuthera or The Bahamas.
Disney supporters challenged that many against the proposed project were non-Bahamian and these opponents should find another property to show Disney how sustainable development is done.
Disney is a non-Eleutheran multi-national corporation that answers to its shareholders, not Eleutherans. Multi-national corporations have highly paid executives whose mission is to maximize profits for shareholders and the company while keeping costs down.
For example, according to Forbes, Disney’s CEO Robert Iger is the highest-paid executive in entertainment, earning $47.5 million – $3 million in salary, a $21.8 million bonus, $10 million in stock awards and $9.6 million in stock option – last year (2020) as Disney’s chairman and CEO. That is more than Disney paid for Lighthouse Point!
The future for economic and environmental sustainability requires Lighthouse Point to remain in the hands of Bahamians. The most attainable way to do this is to develop a national park and reject the Disney environmental assessment.
According to Smart Asset, in an essay titled, “The Economics of National Parks”, “The economics of national parks isn’t just about the parks themselves. It’s also about the effects those parks have on the surrounding local economy.”
For Eleuthera and The Bahamas, this means continued long-term economic growth from entrance fees, touring fees, landscaping, restaurants, gift shops, car rentals, boat rentals, home rentals, and hotels.
This economic sustainability is not just for South Eleuthera, but the entire island.
Tour operators throughout the island could shuttle guests to the national park, stopping at local restaurants to provide lunch or boxed lunches. Along the way there is the opportunity for gift shops, food takeaways, etc. At Lighthouse Point, land and sea tours can be conducted.
The funds collected from all of this will stay in The Bahamas and will be paid to Bahamians, not Disney shareholders or corporate executives.
Trip Advisor, a popular website used by travelers, lists the top 10 Caribbean national parks (Leon Levy in Eleuthera is one) and all the attractions, restaurants and excursions nearby.
It also includes reviews and comments from travelers. This would be far more helpful to Eleutherans than having tours or attractions sanctioned by Disney.
Another national park model to consider that has major appeal to ecotourism is used in St. John, Virgin Islands.
At Maho Bay, eco campsites are rented that have low flush toilets, special faucets and showers to lower water consumption. Rainwater is collected for laundry and bathhouse areas. These eco-tents rent for $130/night double occupancy. The site also has a restaurant, café, water sports center, grocery store and art center. How many permanent, full-time jobs would this create?
Once a national park is established, a national park foundation can follow. This allows for private donations at various levels. It enables corporate sponsorships. Grants and bequeathments can be made.
The Disney EIA did not consider alternative developments at Lighthouse Point, a standard international practice for EIAs. The current EIA should be withdrawn and more sustainable, Bahamian-centric alternatives be considered.
Holly Lown Waters
Lake Forest, Illinois