The controversy is centered in Guana Cay,
an island where the San Francisco-based Discovery Land Company plans to
build a 595 acre, $500 million resort. A citizens’ group called Save
Guana Cay Reef Association is suing the Commonwealth to stop it,
fearing that leaching from the planned golf course will destroy the
coral reef surrounding the island and that a marina that will be carved
out of a mangrove swamp will also cause irreparable damage. As the San Francisco Chronicle reports, the
island has previous experience with developers. "Disney’s Big Red Boat
cruise ship anchored off the island for five years, and the operators
dredged a channel, damaging a portion of the reef before abandoning the
project in 1993."
Someone cleaned up the damage though–the very developers who want
to build their new resort project. "Discovery Land cleaned up the site,
which is within its proposed development. That earned it the support of
some Guana Cay residents."
It’s a complicated matter, and the Commonwealth’s Supreme Court will
eventually decide it. (To follow this story in words and images, see
Erik Gauger’s project, Rise Up Sweet Island.) But the controversy, and all the arguments on either side, are by no means particular to the Bahamas. As just one example, I wrote a story about Roatán,
one of the Caribbean islands off the coast of Honduras, for Men’s
Journal’s February issue. (The picture above left is from Copan in Honduras.) A new cruise ship terminal is under
construction there, which will bring one million tourists on cruise
ships per year to the island within five years–up from 300,000 per
year today. The concerns there are similar: environmental damage and
cultural degradation on the one hand versus economic development and
the spot on the map that comes from being a tourist magnet on the
other. And of course, we don’t have to go abroad to find similar: off
of South Carolina on the Sea Islands, there’s the struggle to keep the Gullah-Geechee culture alive–here, golf tourism is also the encroaching force, and heritage tourism seen as a solution.
In this piece for the Huffington Post, I discuss how to enjoy a vacation without harming the destination. I don’t really have the answers, but one big part of it is definitely spending your money locally.