HEATHER-LYNN’S HABITAT: Development moving in on island
A HUNDRED-FOOT WIDE channel separates the island from the mainland.
A few coconut trees dot the rocky shore; the thin layers of soil support scrub grass and other salt air resistant greenery.
The inhabitants are sea birds, the odd sea turtle bobbing in its waters and the ghosts of the island’s original inhabitants.
And that’s the way some people want Culpepper Island to remain – uninhabited and unspoilt.
The large rock just off Bayfield, St Philip, watched its sister island Pelican gobbled up by development in the 1950s to become part of the mainland.
And at one point, rumours flew that a fate much worse than that might happen to the 100-foot long island which takes its name from a once prominent land-owning family in St Philip. There was talk of development, beach houses and tourists.
Concerned people foresaw the destruction of the natural and unspoilt beauty of Culpepper Island as they knew it.
The rumours were so disturbing that two descendants of the original peoples of the Caribbean, the Amerindians, were galvanised into action.
They staked theirclaim to the island in an attempt to keep the developers at bay.
Two visitors gaze out to sea at Culpepper Island.
Damon Corrie was one of the men behind the 2009 move.
A descendent of the Lokono Arawaks Corrie, who along with Dominican Jacob Frederick of the Karifuna/Carib nation had come up with the idea, had described the development as “a national tragedy”.
He had hastened to allay the fears of the public saying their intention was not to build any traditional Amerindian buildingson the island.
“The area should remain pristine and the bay surrounding it. We want it to remain undeveloped and natural for all and future generations,” Corrie had said at the time.
But yesterday, when contacted for an update on his action, Corrie admitted the plan had garnered slight support from the public.
“The last time I went down there the development had gone ahead. There were houses on the bay overlooking the island. The houses had been built and people we’re living in them,” he said, adding when Frederick and he were protesting, the “mainland” was a construction zone.
He added there were also rumours that the developers “had wanted to make a walkway to the island” – an idea which still upsets him.
Mind you, that causeway would afford those, who have always wanted to set foot on the island, with such an opportunity without the worries of swimming or wading at low tide and then braving the undercurrents that are peculiar to the Atlantic Ocean, as the high tide rolls in.