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CGB Rehabilitation

Cane Garden Bay Rehabilitation
The Community Comes Together

Friday night at The Elm Restaurant in Cane Garden Bay epitomizes a classic night out in the Caribbean: a mix of Cane Garden Bay residents, snow birds and sailors chat and laugh around a picnic table; the band plays songs by Paul Simon, Bob Marley and The Lashing Dogs; a barbecue sizzles; a mother and daughter swing in the hammock chairs; waitresses dance by the tables with small platters piled with food; rum drinks flow from the bar; and a few brave couples move their hips on the dance floor. Residents and visitors love the laidback vibe of Cane Garden Bay and want to preserve the beauty and safety of this friendly, inclusive village.
Cane Garden Bay community members—whether they call the Bay their home for a weekend or a lifetime—maintain an optimism about the unique neighbourhood despite a few major blows last year: a slew of palms and sea grape trees were removed to make room for the BVI Music Festival; major storms washed away roads, damaged property and caused runoff to pollute the sea; and several thefts targeted at bareboat visitors—one of the largest groups to support Cane Garden Bay— were reported.

The population will not allow these setbacks to discourage them. Six months ago, the Cane Garden Bay community and the Department of Conservation and Fisheries drafted a 16-page proposal for the rehabilitation of the Cane Garden Bay and Ballast Bay areas. The document outlines a detailed plan with the two main goals concerning the environment and safety. “Considering CGB was once slated to be a National Park and has long since been revoked as a proposed park, it has been a long time coming,” the plan says, “but the community has come together as one voice to demand that Government aids the community in regaining the environmental and socio-economic quality it once displayed.”
The solicitous plan delineates thirteen long-term goals, along with objectives and specific management issues in Cane Garden Bay and Ballast Bay, then makes recommendations on how to achieve each goal with sustainable development and improved quality of life in mind. These goals—categorized under the umbrellas of environmental, socio-cultural, economic and governance—are: improved management of marine resources and fisheries, reduction of vulnerability to climate change, improved watershed management, preservation of biodiversity, improved environmental awareness, improved quality of life for the individual/visitor, improved overall environmental health, strengthening of community infrastructure, preservation of cultural heritage, reduction of economic vulnerability, maintain or increase property and habitat value, effective use of legislation and regulations, and accountability.
Specific problems identified in Cane Garden Bay range from lack of proper moorings maintenance and a lack of a “No Wake” sign in the bay to “lack of reef monitoring”, “lack of shaded and raised lifeguard towers” and “excessive use of plastics, polystyrene,” mentioning that carry out containers litter public areas.
Most of the proposed solutions require governmental involvement, such as “Proper legislation regarding required use of holding tanks on yachts must be established”, “Upgrade school facilities”, and a request that legislation regarding coral damage increases the fines from $1000 to $5000 per square metre of damage. Other recommendations rely upon business owners’ participation, such as “Require all CGB/BB businesses (grocery stores, restaurants) to begin using biodegradable plastic bags, cups, containers and plastic ware” and ensuring that all vendors are legally licensed. While additional recommendations can be achieved by individuals in the community, such as “Establish bi-annual clean-ups in the bay” and “Introduce a community crime watch programme.”
“One of the key points in Cane Garden Bay,” said BVI Conservation and Fisheries Department’s Shannon Gore, “is that they’ve come together as a unit and figured out, ‘This is what we need.’ They’re the ones who are driving it.” Now that it’s on paper, she said, the community can ascertain how to prioritize and how to move forward.
And they are moving forward. Progress has been made on several fronts. In regards to the environmental solutions to the runoff problems in Cane Garden Bay, Ms. Gore was excited about a group of engineers who recently visited the area to determine how much watershed goes directly into the bay. “These are engineers who are working on projects like The Everglades,” Ms. Gore said, so it makes Cane Garden Bay’s issues look more manageable. The engineers’ report will be presented this month, and Ms. Gore hopes their findings and solutions can be applied to other areas in the BVI. “Cane Garden is the worst, so if things can start changing there, then you can start looking at the other bays.”
Another step forward is the construction and installation of lifeguard chairs at the BVI’s most visited beach. “With 3000 visitors and a bunch of beach umbrellas, you need those chairs,” Ms. Gore said. The chairs have improved the lifeguards’ visibility and ability to do their jobs.
On the business side of things, Ms. Gore said that all the vendors in Cane Garden Bay got a letter saying that they need to have a license in order to have a beach bar on the beach. This will protect the vendors who have paid for licenses as well as possibly encourage non-licensed vendors to seek one and commit to being a part of the community in the bay.
Possibly the most visible triumph in the area is the planning, building and implementation of a glass-blowing furnace staffed with a professional blower and four local apprentices who use bottles sourced from local businesses’ trash to create glassware as well as composite for roads. This is a unique example of direct glass recycling on the island—a project originally imagined by Green VI, a non-governmental organization that hopes to increase green practices in the Virgin Islands, starting by eliminating glass from the waste stream.
The commitment and cooperation of the community of Cane Garden Bay homeowners, business owners, residents, and visitors ensure that this seaside village will continue to be one of the most popular and pleasant places to be in the BVI. As Andrew Warren, known as “northernsailor” on the popular web forum traveltalkonline.com said, “It really has a nice, small town, laid back vibe to it, and it's fun to walk around and see what's going on, see what's cooking at some of the local spots or just relax on the beach.” And the community wants to keep it that way.

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