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Southlands community garden opens this year

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Southlands is a 37-acre parkland area located in Warwick parish - the largest single estate now remaining in Bermuda. The estate has wonderful garden pools, woodland areas and limestone quarry gardens. As one walks around the estate, you will see yellowwood trees and the endemic wild Bermuda pepper trees (Photo by David Skinner)

A community garden on the Southlands property will be ready this Autumn but work must still be done before the site can be named a national park.

While the project was described as a step towards the South Shore property becoming a park, Public Works Minister Craig Cannonier said he could not give a timeline for when that will happen.

“We are still in the process of laying out those plans,” he said. “This is a very large area, but this is a first step in moving towards a national park.

“We have made a commitment to make that happen, we will make that happen, but certainly if you look out you will see there are other properties here, so we need to work out the logistics of some of those things and what happens to those properties.

“The next phase is there is another garden area on the other side. We need to be talking about that. We will be laying out the plans for that going forward. We still need to sit down and take a look at those things.”

Kuni Frith-Black, of the Friends of Southlands, said that the announcement came two years after a pledge to reopen the quarry gardens, located on the west side of the property.

“It has taken some time to get to this point, but we were determined to see this project through,” she said. “It will be a community garden, an educational garden that will open this fall, where the public will have the opportunity to have plots where they can grow vegetables. The gardens will also work as an education centre for our youth. We are very much encouraging youth participation.

“We will be putting in herb gardens and many trees that fruit, such as loquat and mulberry. We are looking to make this a total educational experience for locals and tourists alike.”

Mr Cannonier said it was a great pleasure to break ground on the project, saying: “In our 2013 Throne Speech, this Government committed to the creation of a Southlands National Park.

“Recognising the importance of preserving this area, we began with a process of public consultation that will culminate in the creation of the national park. This community garden will be the beginning of the transformation of what was once a property plagued by illegal dumping, scrambling, vandalism and ruin, to a property that will gradually be returned to its former glory.

“This garden will increase our sense of community ownership. It will foster the development of community spirit and it will bring people together. This is also a great educational tool and an opportunity to connect to our environment.”

Stuart Hayward, chairman of the Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce, said the announcement was a victory for those who had been involved in the prolonged campaign to protect the property from development. “It’s been eight years and counting, so we are pleased to reach this juncture — the launch of the Friends of Southlands Community Gardens venture,” he said.

“Bermuda has less than 400 acres of farmland, so any project that activates farming and helps develop food producers is to be welcomed.”

Premier Michael Dunkley said: “This was a promise this Government made and this is a promise this Government kept. At times things might seem to move a little bit slower than we would like, but if you stick to it things get done.

“I’m excited to see the plans, I’m certainly excited to see the completed project and there will be more initiatives like this. If we stick to it we will get more on the ground, we will get more open and we will get more Bermudians paying attention to the environment.”

Government formally obtained the Southlands estate in 2012 as part of a land swap, trading 80 acres of brownfield land at Morgan’s Point for the 37-acre property. The trade was seen as a victory for campaigners who had fought since 2007 for the Warwick property to be protected from a proposed hotel development.

Southlands (Photo by David Skinner)