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SMALL ISLAND, BIG AIRPORT?

(AN OPEN LETTER TO ALL RESIDENTS OF LITTLE CAYMAN)

Please remain resolute against proposals to “upgrade” your air services. “Airport upgrade” can translate as “island downgrade”. Beware of spurious arguments – the present strip is private (so?) – the present strip is somehow illegal (really?) – you need jet service (why?).

On Cayman Brac, three “advances” have combined to bring us an ongoing litany of environmental damage. They are our longer runway, Boeing 737 jet service and international status. It’s going to get worse, but our sacrifices are bad enough already. Consider these:

1. “HAIRCUT” to the Westerly Ponds: The ponds have been shaved. Ducks like cover, but airports don’t like ducks. So on the runway side the pond vegetation has been completely stripped. Mangroves, Plopnut trees, Buttonwood trees, even Cattail, — all uprooted by heavy machinery.

2. “HAIRCUT” to our previously beautiful West End Community Park:
Take a walk around our “treed” park. The exercise course has pitiful tree cover now, and the newly dedicated Tree Identification Project is a mockery of its former self. Beautiful species have been trimmed to shoulder height, following the prescription for a low profile of trees and buildings beside an “international” runway.

Here’s what it looks like:

Haircut at Westerly Ponds-Cayman Brac

“Haircut” to the mangroves and related cover beside the Westerly Ponds

Haircut at Community Park-Cayman Brac

"Haircut" to the trees in our previously beautiful West End Community Park. So ugly!

LIGHT POLLUTION : There are further problems associated with bigger airports. Don’t bother to look for stars if you’re near the airport. Airport rules result in a spoiled sky for star-watchers all night long, even when zero flights are scheduled. And if you live where many of us Brac residents live, don’t bother to look for stars in the west because they’ll be blotted out by airport light pollution.

CONCLUSION : A number of Brac residents love our 737 air service. (I prefer the short takeoff and landing aircraft myself. I’d rather land at 60 mph than double that speed.) But be careful what you wish for. It’s too late for us on the Brac . We sacrificed a lot, and we’re about to sacrifice more. The airport’s environmental boot mark is huge, like that of the rock quarry and the dump.

Too late for the Brac but I’m writing this for the benefit of Little Cayman. Don’t let promoters force mass tourism onto your island. Most LC residents and businesses are against jet service, a new airstrip and against mass tourism. Little Cayman, of the three Cayman Islands, is truly different. It is the quiet one. It is renowned for its Ramsar site and its outstanding preservation of natural values. It is an eco- tourism success story.

Little Cayman is the Cinderella of the Cayman Islands. Don’t turn it into an ugly sister.

April 2018
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