With more Barbadians and tourists expected to make greater use of the island’s parks, beaches and open spaces for recreational purposes, the National Conservation Commission (NCC) is seeking to provide quality facilities, while maintaining a delicate environmental balance.
According to the NCC’s Technical Officer, Ryan Brathwaite, during this financial year, a major feature of the Commission’s work will be mechanisms to gauge beach safety and minimise risks as part of an ongoing Beach Management Plan.
Among the key projects will be a beach assessment, to be conducted in tandem with lifeguards, in an effort to categorise and rate the island’s beaches.
“The idea is to go out and assess the risks of beaches, both in terms of man-made risks and natural features. For instance, steeper sloped beaches are more dangerous, and some beaches have rip currents, while others do not,” Mr. Brathwaithe explained.
Incidents of beach overcrowding, as well as the overcrowding of parks and open areas during public events, may also be curtailed. As indicated by the NCC official, assessments would also be conducted to gauge beach carrying-capacity as well as for parks and open spaces.
“We will be seeking to measure beach carrying-capacity to ensure comfort of use and to maintain environmental sustainability. When we know how many persons are using the beaches, we would know how many kiosks, shops and other facilities could be provided, while ensuring environmental balance,” the Technical Officer said.
“For example, a simple formula for carrying-capacity could be the total beach area minus areas for emergency access, and ecologically-sensitive areas. The remaining area would then be divided by a particular figure; for example, we may say that persons may need four square feet for personal use, and this would allow us to determine the carrying capacity,” he explained, adding that the calculation would be aimed at ensuring comfort of use for beach-users.
The NCC official noted that there are other ways of determining carrying-capacity by utilising ecological methods.
Data collection, in its broadest sense will, therefore, be a major facet of the NCC’s modus operandi, since, according to Mr. Brathwaithe, “we cannot assume how many persons are using facilities and what they are using them for”.
“If we know how many people use areas and why we can make the requisite resources available to improve facilities. For instance, if beaches or parks are heavily subscribed for picnics, we may need to add more benches or concession stands. And, in instances where the number of users increase, we can increase our personnel on site,” he underlined.
Mr. Brathwaithe stressed that the planned improvements, which include an official delineation of beach boundaries, are part of an ongoing Beach Management Plan that is updated on a biennial basis.
“Within the next three to four years we will also be looking at developing a management plan for parks and open spaces which is needed for environmental sustainability and continuity of knowledge,” he remarked.
The NCC spokesman stressed that stakeholder consultation and input would be central to any Park Management Plan.
“We need stakeholder consultation because if someone lived next to the Park for 20 years he would obviously best know how the park is utilised. “We will, therefore, be utilising questionnaires, interviews and interfacing with the public. We are managing parks, beaches and open areas for the public so we need to find out what the public needs,” he surmised.
In this vein, the Technical Officer said they were also hoping to partner with local and overseas students, as well as business persons involved in the Adopt-a-Beach and park programme, in an effort to bring the project to fruition.
With a well-executed parks and beach management programme in place, it is hoped that Barbadians can be assured of more aesthetically pleasing, environmentally-friendly and safe recreational facilities, which can only augur well for the island’s social fabric.