Grand Bahama News

Top 10 ranking for GB’s Lucayan National Park

The readers of USA Today voted Lucayan National Park (LNP) seventh on the list of Top 10 attractions in the Caribbean in the publication’s 2023 Readers’ Choice Awards, which asks readers to pick their favorites from a list of 20 nominated by travel experts in categories such as food, lodging and attractions. 

In its January newsletter, Bahamas National Trust welcomed the accolade, stating, “We believe this national park is deserving of the win, and we’re glad so many others agree.

“This notable win for the LNP tops off a celebratory year after the park’s 40th anniversary in 2022.”

It is also evidence of the successful recovery of the park following Hurricane Dorian, when flooding damaged the Welcome Centre, washed out the boardwalks and trails, and rearranged the seashore, leveling dunes, drowning sandbars and leaving only a tiny strip of Gold Rock Beach littered with uprooted trees, dirt and debris.

“Without a doubt, we are overjoyed,” Grand Bahama Parks Manager Ellsworth Weir told Grand Bahama News.

“When we first went to Gold Rock Beach after Dorian, the whole beach was wiped away and what remained was a 10-foot deep lagoon. We actually didn’t think that this beach would ever come back. We thought that was it.

“Now, to see over the years that nature has repaired itself, it is really spectacular. Of course, we have helped it along by planting native plants like sea oats, sea grapes and cocoa plums and then kept people away, so that those plants could grow, and as the roots go into the sand, the dune becomes stable. 

“We are hoping that the tall dune will eventually come back.”

Weir noted that the fast-growing invasive Casuarinas are a problem.

“We still have issues with Casuarina trees or Australian pine, so we’ve been removing some of them and we will be planting native trees and shrubs to replace them and keep the dune together. So, there is still work to do but we are happy to see that the welcome mat is back in place and the park and the beach is being recognized.”

The park’s 40th anniversary was celebrated in June 2022 with the soft opening of a new gift shop and groundbreaking to rebuild the Welcome Centre. 

Weir said the Welcome Centre is now almost complete.

“The building is up,” he said.

“We need to now outfit it and we’re working to make it an educational center, so when persons come to the park they will go to the Welcome Centre first, to learn about the park, and then hit the trails or hit the beach.”

The Lucayan National Park was created in 1982, opened in 1985 and expanded in 2015. 

It covers 40 acres of wetlands, pine forest, coppice, mangroves and beach. 

Its two caves are entrances to the renowned underwater cave system which is one of the longest in the world at just over six miles of charted tunnels. 

Ben’s Cave and Burial Mound Cave contain ancient burial sites and have been found to house unique and new species of cave-dwelling creatures.

The LNT, including Gold Rock Beach, is the second most visited park in The Bahamas national park system.

Weir said they have been getting feedback from visitors.

“As a result of requests by visitors through social media and a survey conducted with the University of The Bahamas, persons have been asking for shade out on the beach,” he said.

“So, we have an architect who’s drawing up plans for a beach pavilion that will contain a shade area, a small kitchen and potentially restrooms with running water. So, that’s what we’re looking at as our next project.”

He said they are also working on making the restrooms more handicapped accessible and changing the layout of the parking lot to make it easier to drive in and out.

“So, we are listening to the requests visitors make and moving ahead,” Weir said.

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