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Winds of Change

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government-houseSalt Cay’s future:  restore or replace?

Story & Photos By Michele Belanger-McNair

Salt Cay is known as the “island time forgot.” Prior to the 1990s, few travelers came to this small, remote island just south of Grand Turk. There was no electricity, no running water, a few shops to get basic food, no telephone and little work.

Yet, this tiny island is not just historic, it bears the history of the Turks & Caicos Islands. Salt Cay, along with Grand Turk and South Caicos, made up the Turks Islands (also known as the Salt Islands),  and salt was as precious as gold.

Salt Cay once was home to hundreds of people working in the salt industry. Homes were concentrated in the North and South Districts of the island. Salt businesses and the large homes of salt proprietors dotted the western shoreline. When the sun went down, you closed the door, had a light meal and went to bed. Saturday nights meant shopping, music and visiting with friends and family. Sunday was church and Sunday school.

When the salt industry dried up in the early 1960s, many of the residents left to make a living elsewhere.   Stores and shops closed for lack of customers. Homes were abandoned. Most homes were made of stone, cement and wood, with tin roofs. When you had the necessary materials, you cut a hole in the wall and added another room. Cooking was done on a fire-fed stone oven or kerosene cooker.

As the Turks & Caicos Islands became more well-known to travelers in the 1990s, a handful of intrepid explorers and adventurous divers visited Salt Cay. They stayed in such venerable establishments as Bryan Sheedy’s Mount Pleasant Guest House and Guy Lovelace’s Windmills Plantation, thrilling to dives on virgin reefs. And rather than bringing home a souvenir t-shirt or handcraft, some longtime visitors procurred the deeds to oceanfront property, and the crumbling salt raker’s homes that stood on them. By the turn of the millennium, renovations of these homes and cottages began in earnest.

Today, a number of the one and two story homes, many with walls a foot or more thick, have been or are being restored for modern use in both simple and grand styles. For instance, the historic salt proprietor home,  Sunnyside, has been completely refurbished in a most accurate and beautiful fashion. (Of course history is relative. An original old home on Providenciales was likely built after 1970, on Salt Cay, an old home may have stood since 1890.)

Other historic buildings on Salt Cay, such as the Government House and the Benevolent Brotherhood building, are rapidly deteriorating while awaiting restoration efforts and funds, or a wrecker’s ball and a developer’s planning table.

This story also involves change of a radically different sort. The arrival of developers, the sale and proposed demolition of the precious Windmills Plantation Resort on North Beach and blueprints for a reported “5 star” resort are on the drawing table. Plans include condominiums, estate sized homes and an 18 hole golf course.  A new airport facility and dock are moving forward, though slowly. There is even a proposal to cut a channel into the historic salinas, drain and somehow dredge them, and welcome 200 foot mega-yachts to a new upscale marina and shopping center.

The winds of change are blowing stronger than a Category 5 hurricane. Salt Cay has been “discovered” and the simple life of the residents, expatriates, and return visitors could be transformed. Osprey nests in the salinas and other natural habitats could be destroyed. The free- ranging donkeys and cows have been the subject of much controversy, having been slated to be sent to Haiti for work or slaughter.  A reprieve has been granted but their future is uncertain. There seems to be no room for history or its inhabitants, no matter the size.

Legendary Reggae singer Bob Marley said, “Don’t forget your history nor your destiny.” Will the people of Salt Cay have their precious history taken away and their destiny irrevocably changed by development?

our-heritageRestoration, renovation and preservation

Dr. Neal V. Hitch, director of the Turks & Caicos National Museum, is an expert in the field of restorations and historical architecture. He clarified the restoration process as consisting of three approaches:  a restoration, a renovation or a preservation.

Dr. Hitch explains, “No one really wants to live in a restored house, as it is not conducive to modern living. It is like living in a museum. A renovation allows modern life to happen. A preservation is keeping enough of the original structure of the home so you could, in the future, go back and take it back to the original nature. It involves selective decisions on keeping appropriate older aspects. One can see parts of the building’s original nature, allowing the character and essence of the older building to show. In doing restoration work, it is a hard line in making it something you can be comfortable in and preserving the original character.”

Fortunately for Salt Cay, many people have been willing to not only do renovation of old homes and buildings, they are also willing to support public efforts to do so.

With the purchase of freehold property on Salt Cay, industrious lovers of this tiny island began the refurbishment of the old homes once lived in by the salt rakers. Built mostly in a Bermudan tradition of stone and cement, these sturdy homes feature simple cube rooms with hurricane season in mind. Some had stone first floors and wooden second floors. With hurricanes and termites, the second floors of many homes are now gone (as are many of the homes themselves.)

Some renovations may consist, in the beginning, of several existing walls with doors and windows, maybe the remains of the Bermuda kitchen. New walls, new configurations and complete makeovers are common, with only a portion of the original structure still included.

The story of these renovation efforts are many. But there are common threads to each of them: materials, labor, talent and money . . . and lots of it. Nothing on Salt Cay is simple. From the necessary staples to bake bread to repairing your plumbing or electricity: a simple ingredient or part can stop the project in its tracks. There is no Home Depot or Builder’s Square, there is not even a simple hardware store on Salt Cay. Maybe your neighbor will have it. Most likely you wait until you can take the ferry to Grand Turk and that is not easy either.

Following are the stories of several projects among many. All have varying degrees of complexity, none are simple and each reflects different objectives and means.

Sunnyside

Sunnyside was built in the early 1800s by George Dickinson Jones (c 1823–1881). It appears that in 1896, the Jones heirs sold the home to the Harriott brothers —Edmund, Daniel and Howard — for the sum of 840 pounds sterling. Daniel Harriott, known as “Neil,” lived in the White House of Salt Cay until his death. Howard shared the home with his late first wife Rosalie, then with his second wife, Winnie Rigby. They lived in what they called Sunnyside until Howard Harriot’s death in 1945.

The house remained in the Harriott family until sold to an American investor. It was a private home for a number of years, then was turned into a guest house and restaurant for some time in the late 1990s and early 2000s. It was then known as the “Brown House.”

By 2003, the home was in serious decline and in danger of collapse. It was purchased by American Helen Krieble of Colorado and the renovation and preservation process began.

Ms. Krieble fell in love with Salt Cay when she first came to visit in the 1990s. She was professionally educated as an art historian and learned her craft as a gallery owner dealing in forgotten artists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. She developed her sense of art and preservation in Connecticut restoration projects. When she first saw Sunnyside and considered purchasing it for restoration she recalls admiring, “the exquisite proportions of the rooms. They were big, airy and high ceilinged. The land was good-sized for the house and afforded views of the ocean, whales, Salt Cay, the osprey and salinas.” The sea air and sweet breezes through the house sealed the deal. Ms. Krieble also realized the potential to retain the history of the house as part of the heritage of the Turks & Caicos Islands.

Her purchase led into over three years of renovations and preservation. The most important part of the project was the complete rebuilding of the basement and core structure of the house. Enormous beams were imported to support the entire house’s structure from the bottom up. New cement footings support enormous posts. As with the White House, a salt proprietor’s home was also his warehouse — with salt stored, as if in the bank, in the basement. Sunnyside, too, has such a basement.

Upstairs, the house is surrounded on three sides by a gallery or veranda. The jalousied windows adjust to let light and breezes in. Doors open onto the gallery from the main house.

The  bedrooms, with modern baths, now line the hallway along the southern exposure. A refurbished, modern kitchen and dining area are along the western exposure. The old dining room is now a library. The lemon cypress doors that tucked away into pockets still work and have been restored to give many more years of service. Ms. Krieble explains, “The Bermudans who built these homes tried to maintain, in extremely difficult conditions, the lifestyle and culture to which they were accustomed.”

Ms. Krieble plans to use the home for a residence. But she also wants the people of Salt Cay to know that a home that was an integral part of their history is preserved. Into her home she welcomes the people of Salt Cay:  men who toiled in the salt pans and the women who maintained the homes during years of hard-fought existence.

Given Ms. Krieble’s love of Salt Cay and history she has involved herself in the historical preservation of Salt Cay. She believes there is a need for the renovation and public display of a salt raker home to show to visitors, historians and, most importantly, the country’s children, to bring forth an appreciation of the conditions that preceded the TCI’s current prosperity.

The Smith family salt raker, South District

Built in the South District on a low rise near Harriott Street, this now one-story home was built by the Smith family. Its building date is unknown.

One of the last inhabitants of the family home still living is Mrs. Lillian Isabella Smith Kennedy. She was born in the house on May 2, 1918 to Henry Smith and Alice Arabella Walkin. The home was occupied by her family, including one sister and three brothers. She lived there until her marriage to Adolphus Thomas “Ned” Kennedy in January, 1945. They now reside in their home in the North District of Salt Cay. Lillian Kennedy recalls, “I love that house, I didn’t want to leave. I wish we could have lived there forever.”

Her parents were very protective. “Miss Lily” did not attend public school and was taught in the home privately. When the movie “Bahama Passage” was filmed on Salt Cay in 1941, she was not allowed near the production site, as it was far too risqué for such a young lady (according to her parents). She was allowed to watch cricket matches from the veranda, from which whale-watching was another popular entertainment.

The home Lillian grew up in was actually a two story structure, with a cement and stone first floor and large wooden second floor. The house was painted white with green or gray trim, as Ms. Lillian now recalls. The wood was covered in shingles.

The major hurricane of 1945 destroyed the entire second story and the family moved to the first floor. A galvanized roof with rafters took the place of the second floor. (When she first saw the house being renovated, Ms. Lillian said, “I’m so happy, it seems the house looks just as it did after the hurricane.”)

The home originally had the boys’ bedroom downstairs, along with the dining room, kitchen and washroom. Upstairs, there was the girls’ bedroom, the parent’s bedroom, a sitting room and veranda. There was an inside stairway and a staircase that came to their upstairs door. The house had an outdoor privy. The kitchen had a hearth and fire oven with chimney. Ms. Lillian recalls her mother putting the coffee pot in the fire and coals.

Henry Smith was a master shoemaker and carpenter and owned salt ponds as well. Among families “of color,” they were considered among the “upper class.” The home was considered large by Salt Cay standards.

In 2006, Philip and Cynthia Johnstone of Houston, Texas, acquired the home site with the intention of restoring it. Visitors to Salt Cay for a number of years, the Johnstones’ love of the island compelled them to take on this daunting project themselves, using their own talents and local craftsmen to help.

Since there are no real street addresses on Salt Cay, homes take on their historic site names or adopt new names. The Johnstones call their property “Star Brite,” reflecting the incredible night sky views the home affords.

The Johnstones’ restoration project has proceeded in a methodical and practical manner. When they started Phase 1 in September 2006, the property was almost totally encapsulated with Acacia trees and old rubble. The cistern needed rebuilding and all existing doors and windows had to be replaced with on-site built island craftsmanship. The interior debris was cleaned up and some existing interior walls were removed to accommodate a two bedroom, two bath, Great room and kitchen floor plan.

Phase 2 began in early 2007 with electrical installations and the re-plumbing and re-flooring of the existing kitchen and bathroom. Interior and exterior walls were resurfaced with cement in the salt raker style. A new roof and painting followed, with continuing improvements on this labor of love to continue into the future.

Star Brite’s renovation has been a joy to many of the folks on Salt Cay. Men and women who spent time in the Smith home often come by and reminisce with the Johnstones, telling stories of growing up, Salt Cay style.

Halfway House

Located immediately south of Sunnyside and St. John’s Anglican Church, this restoration is literally at the halfway point between Salt Cay’s North and South Districts.

As was typical on Salt Cay, the first floor of the Halfway House is made of stone and cement. The second story was built of wood. Despite several significant hurricanes, the wooden second story survived and was later covered in stucco and cement.

The property sits immediately at the edge of the western shore with a refurbished seawall. Verandas grace both the front and back entrances of the home. White shutters protect each window. A large cistern with a wash basin for laundry is adjacent. Once connected was a separate Bermuda kitchen with two firepit ovens.

Rick and Holly Henemader of West Palm Beach, Florida purchased the home in 2002 from the family of the late Mrs. Irene Been. Mrs. Been, known as “Miss Irene,” was a baker and chef well known on the island. She ran a small café and guesthouse for a number of years before her untimely passing. She and her husband Lloyd Been bought the home from Benjamin Alfred Basset, a shop owner.

When Holly Henemeder first looked at the house, she says, “I could see the antique bones showing through, especially upstairs in the Great room and bedrooms. I remember seeing the beautiful hand-planed wood walls, original upstairs windows and high tray ceiling. We tried to remain calm and collected, as we knew full well how expensive an antique house can be to restore.”

In restoring the house, “We went with what the house told us to do”, Holly says. “We were trying to bring the house back to its original pre–1840 state. The old six-panel doors had been replaced with Victorian four-panel doors, so we had six-panel doors made. The house had been turned into a guesthouse sometime, it appears, in the 1880s to 1900s. We removed most of those features and other modern conveniences, then sympathetically renovated the upstairs.”

The Henemaders knew they wanted to preserve the home as closely as possible to its original craftsmanship, yet include some modern conveniences such as updated baths, kitchen and electrical work. To accomplish this, they brought to Salt Cay restoration specialist Daniel Boisvert of Ottawa, Ontario. Mr. Boisvert has taken on many a post and beam restoration from Maine to Florida in the U.S. (Post and beam is the method of construction primarily used in the 19th century.)

There is little information on the original builders or owners of the house. The Hanameders judge by the moldings upstairs and other details that the house could have been built in stages between 1820 and 1840. They can also tell by the use of beams and other characteristics that the house was probably built for a sea captain or merchant. The beams were of northern pine versus local southern pine. “Given the history of the Turks & Caicos, the Maritimes of Canada, and the use of the knee beams (or boat builder beams), the house could well have been built by a sea captain,” says Holly.

On the first floor, “end knees” still showing the marks of the ship’s ropes square the first floor and support the second story. The end knees were the second largest knees on the ship. “Main knees” support the center beam of the house. “Inner knees” and “horizontal knees” appear on the second story to lock and square as well.

Original ship’s door frames, moldings, headers made of double ribs, pegged flooring and hand-planed wood panels are restored throughout the home. Where the wood was too rotted, damaged or previously removed, Mr. Boisvert has personally fabricated the required wood replacement parts on-island. To fabricate the ceiling molding and balance the room’s finished design, he had a special router blade made in Boston.

Also from Boston came reproduction sash windows to match the original blown glass windows in the home. Doors and shutters were fabricated on site by Mr. Boisvert to exactly match known doors and shutters found in the storage areas. Brass reproduction hardware will be used throughout the restoration.

The second level floor is the original deck from one of the wrecks. Wooden pegs were used as fasteners. When the shifting of the deck, and later, the floor of the house created gaps and spaces, sailors would hand-carve a new peg to completely fill the enlarged hole. Now, stainless steel screws are imbedded and concealed to stop the shifting and movement of the floor. The floor is being completely repaired and more pegs fashioned to fasten it and retain the original look.

Cabinetry made on site to match that which was of the era and found in Salt Cay’s Government House graces the new, indoor kitchen. All the wood used in this project is cypress from Louisiana and Florida. Termites do not like the taste of cypress resin, preferring pine instead. Posts that were once part of the ship, but too old and decayed to support the structure, have been replaced with reproductions crafted to appear as solid wood.

Pointing out the wide, hand-planed panels on the home’s walls, Mr. Boivert stated, “These are the largest planks I have ever seen in such a restoration.” The walls have been taken down to the bare wood (through many coats of paint) and the caulking replaced. The final coat will be a period-style paint finish with brush strokes typical of the era. The hand-plane marks will remain visible, as well.

Because the home ran on a catchment and cistern water system, it had gutters. These were approximately  eight inches wide and rested in large hooks, still attached to the roofline. Mr. Boisvert said he will fashion new replica gutters from a metal alloy in the original style, and mount them in the original hook hangers.

When finished, hopefully this year, the Hanameders plan to furnish the upstairs in the British Colonial style, and keep the downstairs more modern. The house will be available for vacation rentals, but its time as a guesthouse is over. Holly Hanameder summed it up best, “Can there be anything more satisfying than bringing back a beautiful old building to its original glory?”

Government House

Situated in the South District of Salt Cay, Government House was once the center of social, governmental and business life on Salt Cay during its heyday as a salt producing capital. The house was the primary residence of the Government Officer who was in charge of the entire island. It was built in the early to mid-1800s.

Parties, Easter celebrations, New Year’s events, weddings and Maypole dances were held here. In the home, teas were conducted by the wife of the Government Officer, often while the men played cricket matches just behind the property. Tea dances were regularly held where the folks of Salt Cay could demonstrate both their music ability and love of dancing. After church on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, wakes were held that lasted through the night, with singing and celebrating of the holidays, Alisha Wilson recalls.

Antoinette “Nettie” Talbot recalls the dances and met her husband at one such event. Ballroom dancing and polkas were the rage. Christy Jennings, one of the last Government Officers, always asked her to dance. He was a tall man and she a tall woman, who could do most any dance. “Life was good. Salt Cay was ‘saying something’ when it came to social life and music. Saturday nights were like Christmas Eve,”  Nettie relates. The stores, especially the popular ones in the South District, were open and folks went out on donkey carts or foot to shop for Sunday and the week ahead. They traveled from store to store, visiting and shopping.

The two-story Government House was entirely built of wood with a separate, stone Bermuda kitchen off the back of the house. The front is graced with large cement and stone Bermuda posts and wooden gates. Second floor windows afford views of the creeks on the eastern shore and the sea to the west. The veranda has views all the way to Grand Turk.

Dr. Neil Hitch describes the house as “West Indian Vernacular.” He describes this style as “when a building was built without an architect or designer, parts become stylistic elements that are consistent. West Indian porches for instance are called ‘piazzas’ in Charleston, South Carolina or ‘verandas’ in the Virginia basin. There are distinct elements of the West Indian architecture in the shutters as well. You can find the same elements in Aruba, for instance, and other islands. It is not necessarily Bermudan.” The White House, with its stepped gables and stone structure and kitchen, exhibits Bermudan style and influence.

When the salt industry collapsed in the early 1960s, there was no longer a need for the Government House and the officials who came with it. As with many homes on Salt Cay, the owners or occupants packed up, closed the doors and left the island. No one has lawfully resided in the house since the doors were closed and the last resident officer, Sterling Garland, left Salt Cay. The last function to occur was the wedding reception of Alisha Simmons to Clifford Wilson on December 18, 1976.

There were efforts by local citizens to restore the house, but never any funds on the island “time forgot.”     Soon the Government House was forgotten as well.

Now, through the efforts of Ethlyn Gibbs-Williams and U.S. citizen and Belonger Helen Krieble, a combined effort has been mounted to preserve this classic West Indian home. The Turks & Caicos National Preservation Trust, Inc., headed by Ms. Gibbs-Williams (who is also executive director of the Turks & Caicos National Trust), is charged with the actual preservation work on the home. The Trust has secured a 99 year lease of the property, thus far protecting it from falling into the hands of developers who have plans that do not include restoration. The Turks & Caicos Preservation Foundation Inc. was founded by Helen Krieble as a Charitable Trust to raise funds to restore Government House and aid in preserving the historic district of Salt Cay.

Daniel Boisvert, reviewing the Government House restoration project, says, “Government House can be saved with the proper materials, craftsmanship and funding. It will be an expensive proposition to restore it correctly. Work needs to be done soon to secure the building and try to stop further decay and destruction.”

Ethlyn Gibbs-Williams described the goal of the National Trust. “If we can restore Salt Cay’s Government House it will demonstrate the Trust’s carrying out the mission to safeguard the heritage of the Turks & Caicos Islands. The restoration is a tangible heritage of the Islands and the residents of Salt Cay.”

Ms. Gibbs-Williams added another benefit the restoration will provide for Salt Cay’s residents, “The finished Government House will not provide the amount of jobs a large development would, but it will develop jobs for the island’s residents. Managers will be needed as well as staff. It is planned that there will be a gift shop selling local products, a museum dedicated to the history of Salt Cay and an ecological display. The Bermuda kitchen will be rebuilt and actually work as it did in the 19th century. It will be staffed by local residents, demonstrating the way kitchens worked in the 19th and early 20th centuries.” Cultural heritage will thus be preserved.

Ms. Gibbs-Williams added, “There will be a café and garden area where guests and residents can enjoy traditional Salt Cay cream cakes, Queen Cakes, candies, tea and coffee. Residents can sit in the shade of the gardens and visit with each other. The people of Salt Cay will own this house.”

Plans are currently in development, as are fundraising efforts. The plan will be implemented in three phases. The first phase to begin this year will involve the front portion of the house and the roof. The second phase will be restoration of the Bermuda kitchen, walls, gates and the compound’s gardens. The third phase will tackle the remaining sections of the house.

It is hoped that the Government House project, when completed, will be a repository for Salt Cay artifacts and photographic displays and a place where visitors can see and understand the historical significance and culture of little Salt Cay. Upstairs, the building will be opened to its original grandeur and be made available for meetings, parties, receptions and other gatherings. As Ms. Krieble says, “Government House should belong, once again, to the people of Salt Cay for Salt Cay. It should not be a hotel, guesthouse or other private business.” To support the restoration effort of Government House and other buildings for the National Trust on Salt Cay, go to: http://saltcaypreservation.org.

halfway-house-2008Benevolent Brotherhood

The Benevolent Brotherhood is an old structure in the heart of the government area of Salt Cay, immediately north of the school and public library. Once it was the site of regular meetings and social gatherings. There is a little raised stage where songs and skits were performed for the entertainment of the salt workers and their families. Rosalie Harriott recalled how she performed her first song and dance routine on the Brotherhood stage as a small child in the 1930s. A small donation per year made it possible for the Brotherhood to provide a casket, funeral and band parade up Victoria Street upon a member’s death.

A sign at the front of the room announces “Fraternity” and “Reorganized March 29, 1913” next to a picture of a very young Queen Elizabeth II. Signs above each door state “Peace” and “Concord”. A parade sign pronounces “Guarding Our Heritage 1986.”

But is anyone guarding this historic building’s heritage? In 2004, the records showing who belonged and when they joined sat on a table, forgotten and weathering. The bass drum for parades sat decaying on a pew. It was if the members finished a meeting, blew out the lantern at the door and left, never to return.

Two small caskets, covered in decaying lace, sit in a back storage room, awaiting members that won’t be buried on Salt Cay anymore. There is rarely a funeral on Salt Cay these days, as it is financially prohibitive for a family to lay a lifelong resident to rest here. Folks are buried on Grand Turk now, even if they rarely went there.

Some of the men of Salt Cay attempted to renovate the Brotherhood Hall, but they could not get a permit to put the necessary wood siding back on the building, even though the building was a wood structure and had never been stone. Now the building sits, with no meetings, no membership and no future, except to be torn down and replaced with another cement-block, historically insignificant building.

Helen Krieble and the Salt Cay Preservation Foundation, seek to also purchase and restore the Brotherhood Hall. But members are now dead or quite old, and the younger men who were involved are mostly gone from the island. Getting answers and making progress on this restoration is made that much more difficult.

Conclusion

So much now hangs in the balance for Salt Cay.   Fundraising in difficult economic times is that much more problematic.  Concern over what will happen to Salt Cay development-wise remains surrounded in controversy and shrouded by private business interests.

Some government officials seek to preserve and maintain not only the historical Salt Cay, but also the reefs, ecological life, habitats and lifestyle of  Salt Cay.   Others, less so.

The question will remain to be seen, who is at the helm of Salt Cay’s future? The people of Salt Cay and those that love its unique charm and style . . . or those who seek to make it their own private domain?  Only time will tell.

Sidebar:
At a crossroads:  development on Salt Cay
By Michele Belanger-McNair

Salt Cay is at a crucial juncture in its future existence. It can be a historic preserve that honors the roots, heritage and very foundation of the Turks & Caicos Islands or yet another exclusive hideaway for the uber-rich and their 200 foot mega-yachts.

But first, Salt Cay must weather the effects of Hurricanes Hanna and Ike, which delivered a 1–2 punch during the first week of September, 2008. Salt Cay sustained massive damage.

I am happy to report that all of the buildings discussed in the article, including the Government House and Benevolent Brotherhood, survived intact. Many homes did not fare so well. Salt Cay has demonstrated once again its tenacity and long heritage of overcoming adversity.

But what happens next will remain to be seen. Now is the time to consider other options during the rebuilding process.

Salt Cay can foster sustainable, logical and environmentally sound growth that respects the historical and ecological heritage of the island. Or, it can grow in one massive plan that seeks only to create a financial success for one developer and few current residents. Jobs and opportunities will be created, but not necessarily for the people of Salt Cay.

Restoration or tear down? Which master plan approach should be implemented? Or, should a new master plan, with innovative “green” ideas, economic opportunities, historical considerations and eco-tourism available to any income level, be studied?

Presently, a marina is in the planning stages by developers, to be built within Historic Area 32 (HA-32) which will compromise the protected area of the old salinas and parts of the waterfront as well. The marina will cut a channel north of the White House, and open the salinas to the ocean as well as pollution from boats. The marina is primarily to house the large yachts of proposed wealthy homeowners. Many residents are opposed to this as it will affect the ability to move about the island and have an unknown impact upon the environment, including Atlantic Humpback Whale migration. The effects of this plan, after the hurricane’s demonstration of power, must be reevaluated.

All of this development is stated to be in the planning and approval stages. Much remains in doubt, controversy and without necessary approvals.

Salt Cay needs infrastructure such as a repaired dock, upgraded airport, roads and economic stimulus. Though this development promises all of these things, the cost is the destruction of yet another pristine island with potential for far more than another five star resort, marina, golf course and luxury homes.

Salt Cay could be a UNESCO World Heritage Site if the government will apply for it. There is no application currently before UNESCO.

The three mile long North Beach, which presently has two private accommodations, will become the private domain of a few select villas, five star resorts and condominiums. The entire North Beach property is slated to be developed.

The extended runway to accommodate private jets will affect the natural habitat of the endangered Turks Head Cactus and affect the historic salinas that are nearby. The basic peace and quiet of Salt Cay will become an approach course for large planes. Yet today, air service is iffy at best. The tarmac is closed due to potholes and broken asphalt while the runway is too short for most airplanes available to carry commercial passengers. Salt Cay needs a usable airport, not an international gateway.

Tourist income arrives in many forms and currencies. The Turks & Caicos Islands need to cater to every level of traveler when there are so many diverse islands. Eco-tourism, emphasizing diving, birding, boating and historical interests, to name a few concepts, should be a consideration for Salt Cay.

The Turks & Caicos Islands need to take a hard look at their “Beautiful By Nature” logo and make sure the last of the beautiful islands remains “natural”.

Michele Belanger-McNair divides her time between her California home and her Salt Cay home. Having all but retired from her practice of law, she now writes, does travel photography and chronicles the history of Salt Cay. On her Salt Cay stays Michele records the oral histories of the elders who were once salt rakers and sailors, wives and mothers. Michele is active in the responsible development of Salt Cay and hopes it can develop in a manner fitting its unique history and pristine nature. She owns Salt Cay Photography and her work can be found at  www.SaltCayPhotography.com.



1 Comment

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Carol Jones Kusy
Feb 8, 2011 9:49

I read the article Winds of Change in the fall 2008 publication. In this article the writer talks about the home SunnySide on Salt Cay. I was wondering where Michele Belanger McNair got the information on this home. The reason I am asking is that SunnySide was built by my Great Great-grandfather George Dickinson Jones. I am doing genealogy research and I am trying to get all information possible.

Thank you for any help you can give me.
Carol Jones Kusy
jiggsqc@aol.com

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Marta Morton, owner of Harbour Club Villas, shot this photo on the magical island of Salt Cay. The foreground is filled with the endemic National Flower Turks & Caicos Heather in full bloom. St. John's Anglican Church, built in the early 1800s, is in the background. To see more of her work, visit www.myturksandcaicosblog.com

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