The Queens Cove Community Park continues to be a topic of debate among residents of the gated community and the general public.
The park has been transformed significantly, over the years due to the influences of natural elements and man-made decisions.
Five months ago, Hurricane Matthew unleashed its fury on Grand Bahama and while it caused severe damages to homes, schools and businesses across the length and breadth of the island, it also exposed innumerable inadequacies that left residents vulnerable in many aspects of their daily lives.
Grand Bahamians have weathered and survived many storms inclusive, in particular, of hurricanes of yesteryear like Floyd, Frances, Jeanne and Wilma. Hurricane Matthew proved to be both a curse and a reminder of safety measures that need to be addressed.
Now, seemingly because the 2017 Bahamas General Elections are fast approaching, many residents of the five constituencies of Grand Bahama (West Grand Bahama and Bimini, Pineridge, Central Grand Bahama, Marco City and East Grand Bahama), are seeing an increased presence of Central and Local Government figures, labor leaders and community activists.
Accordingly, there is a lot of focus on Queens Cove.
The Freeport News spoke to residents of the Queens Cove community, Local Government officials and political candidates, who expressed an interest in advancing the state of affairs in the private sub division.
The Freeport News team interviewed a few concerned citizens inclusive of Queens Cove resident David Rose; City of Freeport Council (CFC) Councilman Marco Carey, who has responsibility for Community & Recreational Parks; Queens Cove Community Park Post-Hurricane Matthew Restoration Project Overseer Troy Garvey; and Free National Movement (FNM) Candidate for Pineridge Rev. Frederick A. McAlpine.
A resident of Grand Bahama for more than six decades, Rose said:
“Personally, I think the clean-up and restoration of the Queens Cove Community Park is an excellent idea as it was almost inaccessible, particularly the waterway surrounding it and the recreational waterpark area for children to swim and play safely.
“With the Silver Buttonwood, Casuarina and quite a few mangrove roots jutting out the water, kids simply could not utilize the waterpark area and everything was entwined in the fencing following the Category 5 tropical storm Matthew.
“Unfortunately because the area surrounding the park had not been properly maintained, the dangers there, were compounded by Hurricane Matthew and the only way to remove and improve everything was to cut the fencing and tear up the invasive trees and debris with a heavy-duty tractor.
“As far as I can tell the workers did not redistribute any of the mangroves and while a few of the Silver Buttonwood trees were removed, if any of the mangroves were uprooted it is a proven fact that they are transplantable. In fact, Gail Woon conducts an Eco-Kids Camp every summer and transplants mangrove seedlings that grow and thrive along the shoreline.
“Honestly, I would have liked for Minister Dr. Michael Darville to consult the residents of Queens Cove and to hear our views on the matter especially as I have personally witnessed several serious boating accidents along this waterway surrounding the community.
“Neither boat saw each other due to the overgrown trees on the park hence both 17ft Whalers, one captained by the McBride family of Queens Cove ended up striking each other head-on doing a combined speed of over 50 miles per hour, while trying to navigate this hairpin marina-turn around the point on which the park is established.
“Several persons were injured with one young man thrown overboard and Mr. McBride sustaining severe injuries to his leg and knee in the crash.
“I helped to clear down the trees around the point with chainsaws but it has all grown back so hopefully once the clean-up and restoration of the Queens Cove Community Park occurs and it (the park) will be maintained consistently and everyone would be safe while enjoying all it has to offer with a lot more discussions held with between residents and those carrying out works.”
Pointing out that efforts made by Minister Darville were somehow misconstrued, Garvey offered the following view:
“The Queens Cove Community Park was in a state of complete disarray before works to improve it began. In fact, the gazebo rooftop had been torn off leaving the shaded space exposed to the elements.
“Invasive trees and plants were overgrown and entangled in the fencing around the park’s perimeter, which included Brazilian Pepper, Casuarina trees and Poison Ivy, making it extremely dangerous for children as well as adults. Coming into contact with them could cause an allergic reaction.
“Additionally, waterway navigation proved difficult and there has been a few collisions over the years, hence Minister for Grand Bahama and Member of Parliament for Pineridge Dr. Michael Darville sought to have proper works executed to ensure the safety and protection of children playing on the park as well as others utilizing it.
“Rumors have begun to circulate that those hired to carry out the work ripped away indigenous mangroves, which serve as a natural marine habitat in the shallows around the Bahama Islands and in areas like Queens Cove. However, that is untrue. Only those invasive species of plants and trees along with other debris were removed.
“Minister Darville simply wants to restore this park, making it safe and user-friendly while maintaining its natural marine ecosystem, by salvaging materials and if need be, planting more mangroves and enhancing this entire area overall,” said Garvey.
CFC Councillor Carey adamantly stated that the Local Government consists of concerned citizens who may not have all the answers but respect law and protocol. He charged that while Minister Darville would have sought to have the situation at the Queens Cove Community Park addressed he went about it in the wrong manner.
“Queens Cove community residents approached me concerning the work that had been going on to clean up and restore the park, and when would it be completed. I was baffled due to the fact that the CFC had not been made aware of the project.
“As the CFC Councilman with responsibility for Community & Recreational Parks, I went out to the area to investigate the matter personally and was surprised to learn that Minister. Darville had hired a team to conduct the “Queens Cove Community Park Post-Hurricane Matthew Restoration Project.”
“The matter was indeed surprising as the Queens Cove Community Park falls under the authority of the CFC and Grand Bahama Port Authority City Management.
“While it is good that Minister Darville wants to help with the clean-up and restoration of the park, it was imperative to apply to the CFC for permits to have the necessary scope of works executed.
“As this was not done, an even greater danger is posed not only to children and residents hoping to utilize the park and also the marine ecosystem is placed in a precarious position,” he added.
FNM Pineridge Candidate Rev. McAlpine conducted a meet and greet event at the Queens Cove Community Park recently. He told The Freeport News he was spoken to by residents who voiced certain concerns.
Rev. McAlpine urged Min. Darville to do what is right and follow the proper procedures.
As it relates to Grand Bahama, Rev. McAlpine said he understands that Central Government is in charge, but Minister Darville should not seek to usurp anyone’s authority. “The Queens Cove Community Park definitely needed attention and maybe, perhaps Minister Darville thought he was doing a good thing by clearing down the overgrown, tangled bushes and invasive trees around the point. But doing so posed a danger to children, who regardless as to whether or not the basketball court is properly equipped with nets will continue to play there, have the ball go into the water and God forbid, if not careful the dangers to their safety increases exponentially.
On another matter, Rev. McAlpine said:
“Even though the lack of street lighting issue is not directly the fault of Minister. Darville, residents feel he has not done enough to advocate for something to be done to rectify the situation.
“Personally, God forbid residents go without proper street lighting and signage in the Queens Cove community, which is a stone’s throw away from the airport and a catastrophe occurs (plane, car or boating crash). How would that play on his (Dr. Darville) or Central Government’s conscience,” said Rev. McAlpine.
He further expressed the view that the developers of Queens Cove, Central Government, the Grand Bahama Port Authority, Local Government and the power company all need to come together to have the lighting issue resolved.
Published Saturday, March, 18, 2017