The Bahamas National Trust (BNT) plans to develop national parks in East Grand Bahama and on the northern shore of the island, according to BNT Parks Planner Lakeisha Anderson.

Anderson served as the guest speaker at the Rotary Club of Freeport's weekly luncheon recently where she detailed the BNT's plans for Grand Bahama.

She noted that the BNT has a desire to have a greater presence within the community in order to be more effective in conserving and protecting the island's natural resources.

 

Anderson said the two proposed parks would help the organization to achieve that goal.

" We only have three national parks here on Grand Bahama, none of which protect any of our coral reef systems,"  she said.

Anderson told Rotarians that the BNT has already begun to assess the best methods of incorporating a national park in the eastern end of the island.

" We're doing a lot of work within in the communities of East Grand Bahama in terms of how the areas will be managed once they're protected,"  she said.

" These areas are important as juvenile habitats for commercially and ecologically important species as well as the bonefish populations. We've been doing a lot of research in these areas, along with the fishing guys, and we are promoting that these areas be used for multi-use purposes because we do understand that the fishing community heavily depends on these areas." 

Anderson added that the BNT is seeking to ensure that there are areas that are safeguarded against "incompatible"  development that would cause irreversible damage to the island's ecosystems.

During her remarks, Anderson also announced plans to expand the Lucayan National Park.

She said this expansion would encompass some of the island's coral reef systems.

Other goals for the BNT are increasing visitation and membership, expanding its educational program, improving infrastructure and developing management plans at the existing parks.

The island's three national parks are the Rand Nature Center, Peterson Cay National Park, and Lucayan National Park.

The Lucayan National Park, the most heavily visited park within the BNT's system, receives about 20,000 guests per year, Anderson said.

" It protects a variety of ecosystems in the Bahamas, six of the vegetation zones (are found there). (It) protects fresh wetland systems, mangroves and one the longest charted cavern systems in the world,"  she said.

" Our national parks act as treasures for a variety of life in the Bahamas. They are places that protect our variety of life and habitats, some that are only found here in The Bahamas." 

The BNT is a non-profit organization dedicated to conserving and protecting the natural resources of The Bahamas.

The organization is funded mostly by sponsors, membership and volunteers, as well as an annual stipend from the governemt that assists with staffing requirements and maintaining the national parks.