From left to right: Vice Chair of Friends of Southlands Grace Young, Director of Parks Lisa-Dawn Johnston, Director of Conservation Services Drew Pettit, The Acting Premier and Minister for Public Safety the Hon. Michael Dunkley JP MP Junior Minister for Environment and Planning Sen. Alexis Swan JP, BEST Chairman Stuart Hayward, Chair of Friends of Southlands Kuni Frith-Black. *Photo supplied
From left to right: Vice Chair of Friends of Southlands Grace Young, Director of Parks Lisa-Dawn Johnston, Director of Conservation Services Drew Pettit, The Acting Premier and Minister for Public Safety the Hon. Michael Dunkley JP MP Junior Minister for Environment and Planning Sen. Alexis Swan JP, BEST Chairman Stuart Hayward, Chair of Friends of Southlands Kuni Frith-Black. *Photo supplied

 

Remarks by Junior Minister of Environment and Planning Sen. Alexis Swan, on Friends Of Southlands press conference

 

Good morning,

 

Let me begin by saying how pleased I am to be here today, speaking on behalf of the Minister of Environment and Planning the Hon. Sylvan Richards JP MP, on the rebirth of Southlands into a National Park…one of which Bermuda can be truly proud.

Our Ministry has as its Mission to “Lead Bermuda towards sustainability by protecting our natural and built environment.”  Essentially, it is our role to ensure that there is balance between Bermuda’s Social, Economic and Environmental needs.

That is why this Government made it a priority in the 2013 Throne Speech to commit to the creation of Southlands National Park – something which will inevitably benefit us socially, environmentally and perhaps even economically.

It certainly represents a wonderful opportunity to create another open space for the enjoyment of Bermudians and visitors alike.

Numerous studies have shown that parks and open spaces play a vital role in the wellbeing of the residents which live in those areas…in terms of stress reduction, anger management, boosting creativity, and promoting a general sense of happiness.

They provide a quiet place for reflection, somewhere to go to spend time with family members and friends…to exercise perhaps…a retreat away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life…and create a sense of personal wellbeing.

We need these spaces….especially in a country as densely populated and developed as Bermuda. Only Macau, Monaco, Hong Kong, Singapore, Gibraltar, the Gaza Strip and the Vatican are more crowded than Bermuda.

In fact the Government’s Sustainable Development Plan states that two-thirds of Bermuda is covered by land uses that involve built develop­ment. Residential development con­sumes almost 45% (6,000 acres) of the Island.

Our sustainability is enhanced by the creation of protected natural spaces such as Southlands and preserving them for future generations. 

So thank you to our partner, Friends of Southlands, for keeping this very important national issue at the forefront of everyone’s mind…public feedback is critical in creating a space which is the best fit for our island.

As many of you will be aware, the Departments of Parks and Conservation Services are working together to produce a restoration plan and a management plan for the property…which is roughly the same size as the Botanical Gardens.

The Department of Parks will be responsible for the day-to-day running Southlands National Park and has already done some major clean ups of the site to remove dumped litter and industrial rubble.  In fact they have recently erected gates, which we will see before us today, which will put a stop to rubble dumping.

The next step is for the estate to be incorporated into the Parks Act through legislation for it to become a “public park”. This is expected to be done within the next couple of months when it comes before the House of Assembly.

Much historical research and numerous site visits have been undertaken to come up with a ‘theme’ for Southlands and we hope to begin an extensive public consultation process on this in the near future to hear the public’s views and suggestions.

What we do know is that it has much potential to hold both native and endemic species of vegetation and also be an amenity park for passive recreation.

The pristine woodland and coastal estate is home to a unique collection of natural life and history. Within these 37 acres there is every possible habitat that Bermuda has – apart from mangrove.

There are ponds, a stretch of stunning coastline and sheltered quarry sites as well as wooded hillsides and numerous historical sites of interest such as the graveyard and old buildings.

In short, Southlands is a Bermuda treasure. There is something here for everyone.

Of course this wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for Bermudian businessmen Craig Christensen, Brian Duperreault and Nelson Hunt who helped to facilitate the land swap agreement which saw the estate passed from to Government in return for Morgan’s Point.

In closing I would like to encourage people to attend the fund raiser that FOS will be hosting at the National Trust property at Waterville on October 18th…and also to reiterate this Ministry’s commitment to preserving the Southlands property for future generations.

Thank you.