News Release: HAMILTON, Bermuda – The Minister of Public Works, Lt Colonel David Burch, is today clarifying Cooper’s Island’s status and the public’s access to the area.
Minister Burch said: “Let me first state that the Bermuda National Trust got it wrong, Environmental groups got it wrong, members of the public got it wrong, the Royal Gazette got it wrong and indeed the OBA got it wrong.
“There are two areas at Coppers Island – Coopers Island Nature Reserve and Coopers Island Park as designated by law via the Bermuda National Parks Amendment Act 2017 as passed in the House of Assembly on November 24th, 2017.
“On that occasion, the Opposition OBA shadow Minister, MP Cole Simons, not only supported the amendments but took credit for introducing them when the OBA were in Government.
“He stated: ‘Balance, balance, balance, balance. That is what we have to do within the Ministry of Parks. I am delighted that this legislation is coming to the House today, as I took it through Cabinet when we were Government. So, I will start by saying that I support this legislation, and our party supports this legislation.’” (An excerpt of the debate in the House from the Official Hansard Report is attached).
While the status of a portion of Cooper’s Island has been designated as a “Park”, it continues to be managed as a nature reserve for most of the year except for the Cup Match Holiday.
This strikes a balance between giving the public greater access to a section of the island and ensuring its pristine condition and natural environment are safeguarded.
These safeguards include locking the main entrance gate to restrict vehicular access, except for the recent Cup Match holiday period when the main gate was opened to permit vehicles to drive a short distance for drop-offs and alleviate the burden of people having to carry heavy items.
This decision also eliminated traffic bottlenecks and ensured that emergency vehicles would not be obstructed.
During the Cup Match holiday, additional protective measures were enacted, including the increased presence of Park Rangers who patrolled the area from early morning until late at night and prohibiting bonfires and dogs.
While the main gate to Cooper’s Island was opened and monitored by Park Rangers, the secondary entrance, located just after the NASA Building, was cordoned off with cones, jersey barriers and signage to prevent vehicle access and parking.
Cars were allowed to park either along the grass verge or in the parking lot by the NASA Building.
The Class B Amenity Park designation is listed under the Bermuda National Parks Amendment Act 2017.
This change was made as the area is essentially industrial in nature with NASA, the Weather Service Radar, and a compound which is shared with DENR in the old power station, the Department of Parks in the main warehouse building, and there is also a trailer that the European Space Agency operates to track rockets and satellites.
Following its inspection of the Park following the Cup Match holiday, the Department of Parks was satisfied that its procedures and guidelines successfully prevented any long-term disturbance to the island’s habitats.
The park and nature reserve were and are always patrolled on a regular basis by units from the Bermuda Police Service with whom the Department closely works. This enables an added level of protection for the area.
The Minister added: “We appreciate that many in the community will have an interest in Cooper’s Island given its history and beautiful environment.
“The Department will continue to work with local communities to provide as much public access to protected areas as possible while ensuring that wildlife, natural habitats and history are preserved.
“I am satisfied that the appropriate steps were taken to allow access to Cooper’s Island Park over the Cup Match holiday.
“Those who enjoyed the site – did so with respect for nature and left the area clean. I’ve attached a map of the area so that members of the public can see the demarcation lines between the Park and the Nature Reserve.
“The Department of Parks is well aware of the risks to the Nature Reserve and will continue to take the necessary steps to ensure its protection.”