In the spirit of Colin Hudson’s (1937-2004) vision for a more sustainable and scenic Barbados, the Future Centre Trust has been promoting investment in projects like The Future Trees, which uses individual and corporate sponsorship to plant trees in public areas across the island, and the annual Clean Up Barbados campaign to clean the island’s beaches and illegal dumpsites. The FCT’s current directors try to sustain the environmental organisation’s legacy through these projects and advocacy campaigns to awaken the environmental consciousness of Barbadians.
One of the FCT’s Directors, Barney Gibbs, has often found inspiration in Colin Hudson’s quest to promote environmental sustainability through agronomy and conservation, while also trying to create recreational spaces for both Barbadians and visitors. Gibbs comments, “Colin Hudson had a great love for the outdoors and tried to exhibit environmental concepts and projects in a fun and enticing way. I think that ‘proof-of-concept’ projects are so critical to showing Barbadians and foreign investors that we care about the legacy that we are leaving to future generations. We deserve more than concrete high-rises and environmental degradation. We deserve access points to the sea and spaces where all can recreate for health and wellness”.
Over the past two years, Gibbs and a number of sponsors including Tourism Development Corporation (TDC), Ready Mix, and Caribbean Consultants, have completed a 16000 sq. ft. sloping ‘sea-window’ overlooking one of the island’s premier surf breaks, Freight’s at Cotton Bay in Christ Church. With coastal property at a premium in Barbados, acquiring the site for a park was not an easy task. Gibbs comments, “The process of securing the park was like a long game of snakes and ladders. However, we eventually tracked down the overseas owner who had inherited the land and explained what we wanted to do. As a Barbadian living overseas he was also quite concerned about the number of beachfront developments that were blocking traditional seaviews, and was amenable to protecting this piece of land so long as a greenspace was truly the goal. We offered a fair price and made a solemn promise to improve the area for beach access and a sea window.”
The Cotton Bay Sea Window is now mostly complete with a parking area for about 5-6 vehicles, beach access (with stairs), benches and landscaping. The Sea Window also boasts a charging point for electric vehicles (EV) installed by Megapower Inc. As you descend the stairs towards the beach, you can read the names of all of the corporate sponsors who have assisted with the project. There is even a specially constructed semi-circular built-in seating area with a nod to the past – called the Mermaid Tavern – with historical interpretation of the signing of the Charter of Barbados on January 11, 1652 after the battle that would have been visible from the vantage point at the Cotton Bay Sea Window. The Mermaid Tavern was located in nearby Oistins, but has long since disappeared from the landscape. Gibbs noted, “It was important that we reference some of the local history in this part of the island not only for the benefit of visitors, but for Barbadians as well.”
Since the area is known for its accessible surf break, some local businesses have benefited from the space, including a number of surf schools. Islandwide Camera Protection has also set up a video feed that displays surf conditions in real-time 24/7. The site received almost 200,000 views the first day the camera went live. It is not uncommon to see the space being used for photo shoots. Visitors and locals are regularly seen relaxing in the space and even doing yoga.
As a Small Island Developing State (SIDS), Barbados is not in a position to feasibly expand its shoreline or grow our land resources, nor can it ignore the threats of climate change. Therefore, sustainable development in the Barbadian context must mean that it utilizes existing physical resources, both cultural and natural, while also investing in the health and wellness of people.
The preservation of sea windows also helps to enhance the island’s visual amenity. More importantly, limiting coastal development particularly in ecologically sensitive areas such as wetlands and dunes can help us to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of Climate Change while also preventing coastal erosion and improving water quality for the island’s coral reefs.
Beyond the coast, Gibbs and the newly formed Barbados Trailway Project team envisage that a part of the old Train Line, which operated from Bridgetown to Belleplaine, could be repurposed as a fruit tree-lined multi-use cycling trail from Bulkeley in St. George to Consett Bay in St. John. The 16 km scenic heritage trail would open views, provide recreational and exercise space for Barbadians and visitors as well as economic opportunities for agriculturalists and vendors. The project has received Town and Country Planning Permission and is included in the amended Physical Development Plan as well as the Tourism Master Plan. The project is seeking partnerships in the private sector to make the concept a reality.
The Future Centre Trust is looking at a variety of ways in which our island’s scenic beauty can be preserved while also making Barbados one of the most environmentally sustainable islands in the region. Gibbs believes, “The seawindow project successfully demonstrates that when you invest in access to public spaces Barbadians and visitors can enjoy themselves, while also promoting the principles of sustainable and balanced development”.