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Do You Love the Beach?

It’s a simple question, but one to ask: Do you love the beach?

It appears like an irrational inquiry and although there may be someone out there who is disagreeable with golden sun, white sand and azure blue water, perhaps born out of Transylvania, it can safely be assumed that the beach is universally loved.

So why is it that there has been a consistent issue caused by our malpractice that is literally ‘eroding’ the beauty of our beaches in the BVI?

Photo by Bruce Potter

Photo by Bruce Potter

Best Management Practices which was released at the end of February, is a guide for reducing erosion in the British Virgin Islands – a series of actions that our failure to adopt would encourage the loss of our beaches and near-shore coral reef habitats.

Principal co-author Dr Shannon Gore who owns her own environmental consulting company was inspired to pioneer this book after six years of observing development in the BVI, working alongside Environmental Impact Assessments, and witnessing the residual consequences of negligence toward best management practices; lax behaviour in property construction that resulted in damage to the BVI’s relished beaches.

Supported by principal co-author Lain Leoniak , layout and graphic designer Wilbert Chambers, with funding provided by the Overseas Territories Environment Programme (Office of the Governor), Little Bay Property Holdings Ltd., Split Holdings, Quorum Island (BVI) Ltd., and input from a number of various government agencies, private businesses, architectural firms and construction companies, the publication was permitted to come to fruition.

Photo by Shannon Gore

Photo by Shannon Gore

Containing erosion control measures for both new developments and for interested parties who wish to improve their current structures, the book tackles a persistent issue that has strained the natural environment of the BVI.

Talking to Dr Shannon Gore about the book which advocates the correct procedures, she said: “In the long run, it’s more cost effective [to follow the eco-friendly processes], because if you’re building in an area, don’t put the erosion control measures in or maintain the vegetation…you may incur a lot of problems like landslides behind your house and collapse of retaining walls.”


The environmental consultant further illustrated the benefit of employing the measures outlined in the book.

“It’s about putting in really simple measures,” she said. “It might cost a little more initially, but in the long run it will be more cost effective for you and in some cases, neighbouring properties. ”

Demonstrating her point with a common example, Shannon explained that a lot of the bad practices that occur are found in owners of land, who ‘clear’ the property of vegetation to acquire the view that they seek.

Subsequently, owners are destroying the natural buffer and support that may reduce erosion. Arguably, they are also removing the natural aesthetic splendour of the property that could assist in the sale or short term lease of the house.

Delving into what occurs when development management practices are ignored, Shannon said: “A lot of sediment-laden water is rolling down the hillside and flooding low-lying areas. In some cases, it is enough water to breach the beach berm and cross over the beach causing erosion from the back of the beach and leaving mud deposits.

Additionally, building too close to the shoreline doesn’t allow for sand to move landward, a natural adjustment to sea level rise, so when larger waves roll in, it pulls the sand away ruining our beaches, which is known as costal squeeze.” Effectively our beaches are becoming narrower.

Siting the popular Cane Garden Bay beach as an example of a fragile location, she stated that this is where a lot of damage has occurred. With a few erosion control measures implemented, a dramatic and positive effect can ensue.

Shannon commented that Best Management Practices is unique internationally. “There hasn’t been a book quite like this.

A lot of erosion control manuals written are usually in black and white directed at construction workers and not lay people,” she said. “We’ve deliberately filled it with simple explanations and lots of imagery to make it easy for people to understand,” she continued.

Photo by L Jarecki

Photo by L Jarecki

There is another significant angle to the act of avoiding ‘clearing’ and maintaining the vegetation around, especially for commercial properties like resorts. Many tourists come to see the vegetation and wildlife that exists in the BVI, so a practical incentive is to keep the natural environment for tourist appeal while also protecting the sea from further erosion.

Shannon concluded with the logical perspective that may be the motivation BVI homeowners and commercial developers require: “Leave the natural vegetation – it looks better than a lot of concrete and steel.”

Erin Paviour-Smith

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