Hurricane Dorian Impacts National Parks on Grand Bahama
October 10, 2019
The Rand Nature Centre is home base for our BNT’s operations on Grand Bahama. There, the main office complex which also houses natural history exhibits, an art gallery and gift shop was left structurally intact, but experienced about three feet of flooding during the storm. Almost all furniture, appliances and contents have been lost. Staff on the island have been slowly emptying the building, sorting what little can be salvaged. The team has begun gutting the dry wall, which within a few short weeks has developed mold due to the soaking from storm surge. Electricians have been brought in to replace damaged electrical wiring and sockets throughout the building before electricity can be restored.
Outside of the building, 100 acres of pine forest has fared better than anticipated, but scorched brown foliage speak to the effects of raging wind and rain. The long-term impact of salt water intrusion into the forest has yet to be seen on the property, however there are other areas on Grand Bahama that have shown the loss of pine forest habitat over time. Trails require clearing of fallen trees and debris. Roughly half of the trees in the native arboretum will need to be replaced and the pergola to connect the pond and arboretum requires rebuilding. The gazebo at the Watchable Wildlife Pond appears intact, but more thorough assessments will be needed to ensure no structural damage has occurred.
We are hoping to get the Rand Nature Centre trails in a state of readiness by mid-October to host nature trail tours once Grand Bahama’s tourism sector is re-energized. Due to the extensive damage of the main office building, all exhibitions, office procedures, the gift shop and art gallery operations will be restarted in phases.
Lucayan National Park
The Lucayan National Park (LNP) is the second most visited national park in the country, receiving some 30,000 guests annually. The park is best known for the world-famous Gold Rock Beach, that has been awarded as the #1 beach on Grand Bahama. The Park contains all of the Bahamian vegetative zones including the last intact mangrove wetland on the southern shore of Grand Bahama, and beneath the surface is home to one of the longest charted underwater cave systems in the world. Initial assessments reveal that some infrastructure and signage in the park has been damaged or displaced and will require repair, however most of the David A. Knowles Bridge, which previously provided access to world-famous Gold Rock Beach., remains intact.
What now lies at the end of the David A. Knowles Bridge is most striking. A large area of Whiteland Coppice that provided a transition zone between the boardwalk and sand dunes has been washed away. The boardwalk now terminates at the water’s edge. Preliminary assessments are being conducted to assess the integrity of the bridge and determine how best to restore the beach or to extend or reroute the bridge to provide access to the beach east or west of the bridge, which is critical for tourists who visit the park.
Peterson Cay National Park
Teams have not yet made it out to Peterson Cay National Park as access to vessel support has been challenging. We are hopeful that the storms impact was minimal and that future assessments will show habitats that support bridled terns and many other winter resident birds remain intact and healthy.