LETTER TO THE EDITOR: A vision for West Grand Bahama

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: A vision for West Grand Bahama

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — As a young person who grew up in West End, Grand Bahama, I can recall countless conversations with those who had the opportunity to witness a different West End and a different Grand Bahama than those of us in my generation. There are many terms, names and phrases used to describe the economic and social climate of those times, but the most notable to me would be the nickname “The Magic City”.

At the mention of the name ‘Magic City’, the island’s population now asks the perplexing question “where did the magic go” and “wow do we get it back?” I believe that both of those questions can be redirected to “bow can we make it sustainable?”

I am a strong believer that complete answers to important questions such as these cannot come from any one person or any one generation. As I pore over the vision of a new West End, I cannot help but ponder on two quotes by visionaries.

Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” said by Winston Churchill, and “today’s generation of young people holds more power than any generation before it to make a positive impact on the world,” said by Bill Clinton.

The difference in generation, political party or socioeconomic background should not serve as the stagnant force that it currently is when compared to the united goal of creating a better community, island and country at large. 

Our country’s greatest resource has always been and will always be our people. This is significantly evident for West Grand Bahama. Like any other raw resource, it is imperative for us to mold and cultivate the ideal environment and conditions for natural talent & hard work to thrive. We have outstanding talent which can flourish when paired with hard work and dedication, but we must also create opportunities while providing the necessary tools for skill development.

As a young track athlete, I know of many innately gifted runners from West Grand Bahama who would dominate races with little to no training, but as the years went by many were negatively influenced or had no interest in developing their talents. Imagine the Golden Girls and Knights that we lost along the way, because of a lack of support, resources and the list goes on.

It is crucial for opportunity to co-exist with infrastructure and a personal dedication to advancement, otherwise the developed human resource will become valuable for someone else. In other words: people will have no other choice but to settle somewhere else and carry their skills along with them. 

We must take a serious look into the little things that need fixing in West Grand Bahama. After nightfall, the drive between Deadman’s Reef and Bootle Bay turns into a relatively dangerous journey because of the complete lack of streetlights on a road filled with curves. The residents have acclimatized themselves to identify the dangerous curvatures, but this still does not decrease the fatal accidents that occur on these roads. With West End being a famed Sunday chill spot for many who live elsewhere, this presents an even more dangerous situation for those who decide to stay to enjoy the sunset. It’s hard for drivers passing by to see the accident and help before it’s too late. This issue needs to be addressed immediately because for many residents in the area, the worst outcome isn’t merely a potential scenario, it’s a reality that has taken the lives of family and friends. How many more precious lives do we have to lose?

I can remember many instances where my daily school commute to Freeport was redirected and in some cases impassable due to flooding in the area. This still presents an issue decades later. The Ministry of Works has rolled out a plan to address a similar flooding situation in east New Providence. I believe that after assessment the same should be done in Eight Mile Rock, specifically because there are only two main roads. In the case of heavy rain, the route becomes untraversable; Affecting the daily lives, and commutes of many. 

For generations, boating and fisheries have been thriving industries and livelihoods for numerous families. Proper infrastructure must be built to support this industry. The Government dock urgently needs to be reconstructed. 

COVID-19 has shown us that diversifying our economy should not be overlooked. It is critical. However, we should also continue to nurture and develop our high-performing industries such as tourism, within reason. The initial plan for the Ginn project is no more, but the potential for the 2,000 acres of dormant land has always remained alive and well. A major investment as such can provide job opportunities for not only the people of West End, but for the residents of West Grand Bahama as a whole. 

Affordable housing and home ownership, especially for the younger generation is paramount in a country such as ours that has a limited amount of land to offer. An assessment for an affordable housing project in West End has concluded that there aren’t enough applicants that would be eligible for pre-approval. I believe that it is worth looking at the areas between Deadman’s Reef and Holmes Rock for an affordable housing subdivision for young professionals. It is a really underdeveloped area that sits between West End (the island’s capital) and Eight Mile Rock (the largest settlement in The Bahamas). It can serve as a midpoint opportunity for the people of West Grand Bahama to own a home, near their home communities which reduces the hassle of owning land in the Port Area (Freeport). This also seems worth assessing with the ongoing building of a new Government Junior High School in Holmes Rock and new Government complex in Eight Mile Rock.

As previously stated, West End is a place where people go to unwind, reconnect, recharge, experience one-of-a-kind cuisine, and meet wonderful people, as it is the ‘home of hospitality’. If we look to bring investments we must also invest in our product. A few years ago, a plan was proposed to add some infrastructure to the shoreline in West End in an attempt to do just that, invest in our product. It would have incorporated the construction of platforms beyond the seawall that vendor stalls and bathrooms would be built upon. This is still an amazing concept budding with possibilities and one can be placed near the areas where people often frequent. This can be enjoyed by locals, vendors, domestic tourists and international tourists. Local businesses should have the opportunity to gain from an investment that causes an influx of tourists, we should not just be limited to job opportunities. 

All the blame for this cannot be put on the government, we as residents must also do the work. It is our job to keep our community together and put forth our requests based on what we see on the ground every day, we have to create committees, make plans and execute before asking for the government to assist with such events, and most importantly we must support and participate. We cannot let time, an influx of different cultures or even world-changing events cause us to forget and abandon our culture. Success in our community begins and ends with us. This is my vision for West Grand Bahama.

Bryant Lowe