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Bahama Journal [21-23 Feb 2003]: The North Eleuthera Nexus: An Economic Zone
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Page 1 of 1Total of 2 messages
Posted by:Feb 24th 2003, 05:29:12 pm
ColinHOw do Brilanders feel about this article? The history is nice, but what about the "plans" mentioned for the Commonage. Is there support for developing this land? Has anyone asked what effect this might have on the bay, especially the flats, so important to Briland?
Is further development a good idea? Would Nassau or developers pay for the sewage treatment that would be crucial to keeping the bay healthy? Not to mention what effect development would have on the mangroves and the island in general in terms of erosion and runoff.

What say you?
Posted by:Feb 24th 2003, 02:26:19 pm
Fig Tree News

The Eneas Files
An Economic Zone: The North Eleuthera Nexus

History has a way of repeating itself. The early history of The Bahamas, specifically the era marking the arrival of the Eleuthera Adventurers, saw North Eleuthera as the centre of Bahamian Life. At that time, the prominence of North Eleuthera stemmed from its position in trade and commerce as well as governance. Today, North Eleuthera is emerging as an important economic zone. The nexus of Spanish Wells, Harbour Island and the mainland of North Eleuthera, (the Commonage Lands, the Bogue and the Bluff) has the potential for a new wave of sustained economic activity.
For centuries, the residents of Spanish Wells have derived their livelihood from the land and the sea. When Eleuthera was the breadbasket of the Bahamas, North Eleuthera was one of the principal farming locales producing huge quantities of citrus, bananas, a range of fruits and vegetables and livestock, mainly mutton.
The Spanish Wells entrepreneurial spirit pushed them towards integrating their farm business with freight hauling and passenger services by ferrying produce to the Nassau Markets and people to the capital to enjoy the amenities of city life.
Fishing further solidified the economic strength of Spanish Wells as trade and commerce blossomed enabling Spanish Wells farmers and fishermen to enjoy a high quality life and one of the highest per capita incomes in The Bahamas.
Spanish Wells like Harbour Island utilized North Eleuthera commonage land to establish their farming operations establishing lucrative citrus orchards and fruit tree groves.
History has it that Harbour Island's greatest moment came when its inhabitants were engaged in the recapture of Nassau from the Spaniards. Every man capable of bearing arms joined the force and sailed to Nassau.
For their part in the victory, Harbour Islanders were granted 9,000 acres of commonage land on North Eleuthera. Today, there is virtually no land for re-development, much less for agricultural use.
Spanish Wells is in the same predicament except Russell Island which has been connected to Spanish Wells by a bridge and where some individuals utilizing Haitian labour have established orchards, groves and livestock  enclosures on parcels of land.
During the decade, the 90's, the farmers of North Eleuthera have fallen on hard times as the importance of agriculture to the economy declined. Farming has become unattractive as the average age of farmers has crept up to the 60's. Shrinking farm output, and dwindling incomes from farm output have made it unappealing to youngsters.
This has negatively impacted the quality of life of the North Eleuthera farmer, be he on Spanish Wells, Harbour Island, The Bogue or The Bluff and even The Current.
The economic vacuum left by farming is being filled by tourism to Harbour Island which has become the tourism mecca of Eleuthera.
Reports have it that people from the deep south of Eleuthera travel to Harbour Island to work in the hotels, guesthouses, winter residences, restaurants and marinas. Men who were once Bluff and Bogue farmers now drive taxis for their living by providing tourists with tours to historical places like Preachers Cave and unique panorama surrounding the Glass Window Bridge.
Like most of the Southeastern Bahamas, Eleuthera has been in a state of socio-economic stagnation. In 1980, the population of Eleuthera

  was 10,571 with Spanish Wells/Harbour Island accounting for 2,300 inhabitants (21.7%). Fifteen years later, the population of Eleuthera was 10, 584 inhabitants with Spanish Wells/Harbour Island totalling 2,590 inhabitants. In comparing 1980 with 1995, Spanish Wells/Harbour Island are growing while the rest of Eleuthera has declined. If a population survey were taken today, Harbour Island would probably emerge as the fastest growing community on Eleuthera at large and in North Eleuthera specifically.
North Eleuthera accounts for about 50% of the tourists visiting Eleuthera. Most of that 50% stay in Harbour Island. This has fuelled the Harbour Island economy to the point where it has grown 25 to 30% during the 90's.
This is manifested in the sky rocketing property values which are generally ten times that of New Providence. Among the yuppie crowd and super rich, Harbour Island has become the Martha's Vineyard of the Caribbean.
Harbour Island is not only appealing to foreigners as a tourism destination but to locals as well. 75% of the fast ferry business is generated by essentially Nassauvians heading to Harbour Island for rest and relaxation from the pressures of urban life.
The economic nexus of Spanish Wells, Harbour Island and commonage lands of North Eleuthera is viable. The fast ferry has rejuvenated Harbour Island as a major tourism destination in the Family Islands not only for foreign visitors but also for Nassauvians who want a quick, relaxing getaway.
Harbour Island has preserved its quaintness by maintaining many of its historical buildings has enhanced its historical importance and the uniqueness of its geographical location, thereby accentuating its appeal to a diverse grouping of visitors.
The Fast Ferry has also opened North Eleuthera to a new kind of tourists. In addition to boaters, day tourism and short-term tourism have kindled new life into Harbour Island's economy as a tourism destination. The pink sandy beaches, the historical homes, buildings and churches and, yes, the trade winds off the Atlantic have made this island a sought after destination. The island of 3 miles long and 1/2 mile wide has reached a saturation point with homes, guest homes, people and golf carts.
However, if some of that 9,000 acres of commonage land is developed for tourism recreational purposes, the tourism equation changes and can now be expanded to pull in the Bluff, Bogue and The Current by increasing the employment and investment opportunities for the residents of those communities.
On the Commonage Lands with the consent of the residents of Harbour Island, a Country Club type facility could be constructed with golfing and tennis facilities thereby expanding the area's attraction. In conjunction with the Country Club, other amenities would come on stream, possibly hotels and condominiums. Private developers can develop residential communities for professional Bahamians wishing to live in North Eleuthera and commute to Nassau for business and work.
From the Public Sector, upgrading of health, educational and other services would also have to take place in order to meet the demands which expansion will bring with the development of new residential communities.
This North Eleuthera Nexus has the potential to be a viable economic zone with the capacity to change the economic climate in North Eleuthera and with the possibility of economic spin-off beyond the Glass Window Bridge.

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