New Nature Boardwalk
(George Town, 3 January 2014) Dozens of Little Cayman residents and visitors gathered on the afternoon of Friday, December 27th 2013 to celebrate the official opening of the National Trust for the Cayman Islands’ newest boardwalk. †The boardwalk, which offers visitors a glimpse of the island’s pristine coastal shrubland off Preston Bay, was dedicated to long-time National Trust supporter and Little Cayman resident Gladys Howard.
Carla Reid, chairperson of the National Trust, explained that the completion of the boardwalk represented the culmination of what had been a multi-year project to ensure the Preston Bay land was protected in perpetuity. The purchase of the land was made possible by a number of donations and took over a year to complete. “The completion of the purchase and this project is a testament to the perseverance of the Little Cayman District Committee and the generosity of this entire community,” Mrs. Reid said.
Betty Bua-Smith, chairperson of the Little Cayman District Committee of the National Trust, explained that, although many people had contributed in a variety of ways to the completion of the boardwalk, Ms. Howard had been a driving force behind the project. “The Little Cayman District Committee is proud of our accomplishments and that we are able to dedicate the iguana nesting site boardwalk to Ms. Howard,” Mrs. Bua-Smith said. “With the strong leadership of Ms. Howard we are honoured to see this dream fulfilled."
Ms. Howard gave a short speech before cutting the red ribbon and opening the boardwalk to the public. “This is really an amazing accomplishment on behalf of the National Trust and for the preservation that we hope to continue on this island,” Ms. Howard said.
The land on which the boardwalk is situated has extreme environmental significance as it is the largest communal nesting site for the endangered Sister Islands Rock Iguana, Cyclura caymanensis, on the western side of the island.
Although the Sister Islands Rock Iguanas are usually very territorial, the female iguanas nest communally in five specific areas. The Preston Bay nesting site contains almost 40 percent of the total nests laid each year.
Signs placed along the boardwalk explain the terrain and its flora, detailing which plants were important to early settlers. Although coastal shrubland is increasingly scarce due to human development, the habitat is essential to the survival of a variety of endemic and native animal species.
Mrs. Reid explained that the boardwalk will serve as an important educational tool. “Many visitors come to the island and use this site for beach-combing and snorkeling and now we’ve been able to provide them with information about the iguanas and their habitat, as well as the turtles and sea birds that nest on the beach,” Mrs. Reid explained.
Minimal land was cleared during the construction of the boardwalk and the raised platform will allow the iguanas to move unhindered.
The National Trust for the Cayman Islands has been “protecting the future of Cayman’s heritage” since its inception in 1987. The Trust is a not-for-profit NGO created to preserve history and biodiversity of the Cayman Islands. Through education and conservation we work to protect environmentally sensitive and historically significant sites across all three Islands.
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