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‘Dirty diamond’ to regain its sparkle

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Makeover plans: Mangrove Bay in Somerset (Photo courtesy Victoria Pereira)

The proposed redevelopment of a “dirty diamond” in the West End is beginning to take shape — and the public is invited to have a say in the project.

The work at Mangrove Bay Beach could even be completed in time for next year’s tourist season.

William Spriggs, the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation’s (BEDC) economic development officer for the Somerset Economic Empowerment Zone (SEEZ), said they had been promoting a new look for the area for three years.

“Simply put, Mangrove Bay Beach is a dirty diamond and has been neglected far too long,” he said. “Somerset, and Bermuda as a whole, needs full use of all its natural assets, especially with the expectation that thousands of Bermudians and visitors will pass by the beach on their way to Dockyard to participate in the America’s Cup festivities.”

Mr Spriggs said they were hoping that at least a dozen new seasonal businesses could be established on and around Mangrove Bay — boosting its appeal for visitors and residents.

As well as food and drinks vendors, they are hoping to attract local companies offering tours and water sports, hair braiding and entertainment.

“This should help bring more visitors to actually stop and stay around Somerset Village — people tend to just go straight to Dockyard and they travel straight through Somerset Village,” added Victoria Pereira, a senior planning officer with the Department of Planning.

Mr Spriggs explained that the beach’s foreshore was eroding, there is no proper access, abandoned punts, water drainage issues and a lack of visitor facilities.

“It needs a lot of help, there’s some fencing that needs to be done, there are some invasive species — there’s a lot of potential for conservation management,” Ms Pereira said.

“We’re looking at it having a very natural feel to it, we don’t want to concrete everything. It’s trying to maintain that natural environment feel of the whole area.

“In terms of the type of construction, we’re talking naturally rustic wooden structures — as little concrete as possible to keep that rustic feel.”

It is also hoped that the junction of Mangrove Bay Road and Somerset Road will be altered to create additional space and to slow traffic approaching the area, Ms Pereira added.

Mr Spriggs said: “We want to create a design theme that is right for Mangrove Bay. We have an opportunity here to be able to do something that’s a bit different that, at the same time, serves West End visitors to the best of its ability.”

He said the SEEZ was excited about partnering with the right private and public entities to develop the beach. These include Cambridge Beaches Resort and Spa, Sandys Parish Council, the Bermuda Tourism Authority and the Department of Planning, Public Lands and Buildings, Highways and Parks.

Mr Spriggs said that the partners were committed to having the beach ready for the 2016 tourist season, but that they were still assessing the full scale and feasibility of the project.

“At this stage we are expecting private and public monies to develop the beach,” Mr Spriggs said. “It could be a mixture, it could be solely one or the other.

“The beach is along a thoroughfare going to dockyard and we are hoping that, in our fundraising efforts, whether it’s Government or whether it’s private, the private sector will see the value in restoring the beach for the benefit of not just the West End, but all of Bermuda.”

Mr Spriggs said that the development could also highlight the strength of public-private partnerships to restore natural assets and boost the economy.

He added: “We need more small businesses, we need to make happier tourists, and we need to involve our communities to help manage our problems and create new and exciting opportunities.”

The SEEZ will be hosting a Mangrove Bay Beach Development Public Information and Design Session at Sandys Secondary Middle School from 6pm to 8.45pm on Monday, June 1.

The public is invited to learn about the beach’s history, dynamics, what makes a successful beach destination, and to give their feedback and input on what should be incorporated into the beach’s design and development.

• For more information contact the BEDC at info@bedc.bm or visit www.bedc.bm

An artist's impression of how Mangrove Bay will look after its redevelopment (Photo courtesy of the SEEZ)
An artist's impression of how Mangrove Bay will look after its redevelopment (Photo courtesy of the SEEZ)
Mangrove Bay's foreshore is eroding, there is no proper access, abandoned punts, water drainage issues and a lack of visitor facilities (Photo courtesy Victoria Pereira)
Mangrove Bay, Somerset, is to be transformed to appeal to residents and visitors - hopefully by the start of the tourist season next year