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Bermuda’s environment warrior

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Stuart Hayward enjoying Admiralty House Park (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Stuart Hayward was scolded for even glancing at Admiralty House as a child.

It was the British Admiral’s residence, accessible to only the cream of Bermuda society.

“My grandmother, Olivia Hayward, would say, ‘That is not ours, we don’t belong there’,” said the 74-year-old, who lived across the street from the Pembroke property.

As fate would have it, the grounds inspired his first action as an environmentalist.

The property was earmarked for a hotel college in 1974; Mr Hayward took on the cause of keeping it as open space.

“Few Bermudians had ever seen the place,” he said. “Many people didn’t care because they didn’t know what was there.”

He and a group of like-minded people formed the Admiralty House Park Association and held a two-day concert attended by 6,000. Government had no choice but to keep it as a park. Today it’s open to all.

The day he took his grandmother to see it was a proud moment.

“She was then wheelchair-bound,” he said. “She tensed when I pushed her onto the property and it was stressful for her. But she got to see the caves there and what the property looked like.”

Mr Hayward has spent the last 40 years helping preserve Bermuda’s open spaces.

In 2007, after challenging a plan to build a hospital on the Botanical Gardens, he founded the Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce.

Nine years later, he has no plans to retire.

“Environmentalism is an avocation for me,” he said. “It is what I do and who I am.”

For his birthday last month, he asked people to help him raise $25,000 for BEST.

“We asked for 74 people to become BEST friends,” he said. “We exceeded our target and raised $27,624.”

He’s always had a knack for asking questions and had a difficult time at Berkeley Institute because of it.

“They said I asked too many questions and was too disruptive,” said Mr Hayward. “Usually, the question that upset them was ‘why’.”

Today, his questions are still making some people uncomfortable. Marc Bean, the Leader of the Opposition, called BEST a Muppet Show after Mr Hayward questioned development at Southlands park in 2010. Mr Hayward made Kermit the Frog BEST’s mascot in response.

Ironically, his wife of seven years, Jamie Bacon, is the island’s frog expert.

He thinks he got his love for the environment from his resourceful mother, Mary Hayward.

“She never threw anything away,” he said. “Vegetable cans became flower pots. Any scrap of paper was something to draw on or write on. No pencil ever escaped me. If I saw a pencil on the side of the road I would pick it up.”

From his father, jazz pianist Lance Hayward, he inherited an ear for music.

“When I was a small child, my father had an ensemble called Hayward and Hayward,” he said. “They’d often come over to our house to practice. Being the precocious child that I was, I’d often say, ‘That’s wrong’ when they made a mistake.”

Today he plays the recorder, piano and guitar with proficiency. His educational path was a meandering one.

At 14, he was sent to Grenada to live with a Bermuda family, Albert and Violet Lightbourne. They enrolled him in a boy’s boarding school, but he ran away after a run-in with the headmaster. He spent several blissful months on the lam before he was caught and sent home.

“At that time the Bermuda Technical Institute was just opening,” he said. “I was the first student to register.”

He graduated top of his class, and took engineering courses at Howard University. He dropped out to work as a motorcycle mechanic.

When he returned to Bermuda in 1972 he was shocked by the changes.

“When I left in 1958, you could drive for miles without seeing another vehicle,” he said. “There were open spaces everywhere; you could find trees to climb. In 1972 Bermuda was a lot more developed and there was a lot more traffic. I didn’t see any hope for the island if it developed so there wasn’t any open space.”

In 1989, he was inspired to run for Parliament after hearing a parliamentary radio debate in Jersey, while on holiday in France.

“They were discussing the same issues we were in terms of tourism and its future,” he said.

“Except here our debate was partisan, ‘We’re right, you’re wrong’; there the debate was, ‘Here is what could be done. Let’s do it.’ I was really impressed.”

He ran as an independent in next Bermuda election, taking over the seat of Clarence James, the UBP Finance Minister.

“I sat in Parliament for just under four years,” he said. “I am very proud of that because while I was there the issues of the environment got a high level of exposure, either because of comments I made or challenges I made.”

He lost his seat in the following election and went back to university, earning a master’s degree in environmental studies from Antioch University in 1997.

“I wish that my mother could have seen me finish my schooling,” he said.

A year ago he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease a progressive nervous system disease marked by tremors, muscular rigidity and slow, imprecise movement.

“It is hard,” he said. “With Parkinson’s there is no known cause and no known cure. It is different for everyone who has it. Most of my effort goes into managing the medications to deal with the symptoms. I am trying alternative treatments, because the side effects can be worse than the disease.”

The disease hasn’t stopped his work with BEST. He is currently working on a plan to keep the organisation running into the future.

“I want BEST to be here for awhile,” he said.

Lifestyle profiles senior citizens in the community every Tuesday. To suggest an outstanding senior contact Jessie Moniz Hardy: 278-0150 or jmhardy@royalgazette.com. Have on hand the senior’s full name, contact details and the reason you are suggesting them.

Environmentalist Stuart Hayward (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Environmentalist Stuart Hayward (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Taking it easy: Hayward enjoying Admiralty House Park