Editorial Issue Nº13
Welcome to the island of Excellence! “L’ile par excellence” as we call it ourselves. Some call it the “Island of the Billionaires”. Recently it has even been named “l’ile du BTP” (The construction and public work sector) by several french medias. I wouldn’t say it’s completely wrong to say that we are the “Island of the BTP.” It seems that our economy – once based on eco tourism – is now based on construction. This turn was predictable for everyone who knows that the president of St-Barth owned a concrete factory at the time of his election. Surely president builder in chief Bruno Magras can be proud of the economic state of our island. We’re actually all proud of it. We work hard and attract many wealthy individuals and billionaires alike. But you can trust me that there are definitely more construction trucks living on this tiny island right now than billionaires.
St-Barth was once extremely poor without any natural resources. It earned its place on the map and its reputation thanks to a billionaire called Rockefeller. The price of a square meter exploded since he purchased the Bay of Colombier in the fifties. A piece of land that used to cost $lOO at the time can now sell for $2O million or more. So yes, St-Barth has become a wealthy and successful island, but this has also come with a big price to pay at the cost of its nature, its architectural heritage, its wild life and the peacefulness of its population. In the last five years St-Barth has seen the apparition of giant construction trucks, cranes, dumping zones. Peaceful and “postcard” landscapes have been transformed into industrial zones. Unfortunately this growth has come in pair with issues we did not face before such as a saturation of public services, incivility, traffic, pollution and abuse of the nature.
The most relevant and upsetting example happened lately in Toiny on the “wild coast” of St-Barth. The former reverend of the Anglican church of St-Barthelemy, also former owner of the well known St-Barth Isle de France, recently purchased the Toiny Hotel with a bunch of investors. A beach club has been created on one of the last wild beaches on the island.
Many people have already expressed their disappointment in local press and social medias. Maxime Desouches, member of the conseil territorial gave an interview to Saint-Barth magazine about the topic explaining that the creation of the beach club below the hotel has been done illegally and this remains today in total impunity.
It seems the magic of the holy spirit turned a building permit for a 47 square meters tiny toilet and depot into a giant beach club. To top it all off, the creation of this beach club has caused visual pollution of one of the most peaceful and historic sites of St-Barth. This land is a designated green zone protected by law. It has now been modified. The pictures taken on the site by the environnemental association St-Barth Essentiel and surfers are simply heartbreaking. The Raisiniers trees that provided a natural separation between beach and land have been chopped down. Pictures show that sand has been brought in order to create an artificial beach, massive stones have been brought on site to create different levels, historical architectural cottages have been turned into clothing boutiques, two buildings have been constructed next to them (these have official building permits), parking has been created and eye sores such as cars, ugly plastic tents, tables, chairs, umbrellas and loungers now saturate what was once wild deserted beauty. The hill that used to be one of the most breathtaking wild landscape now carries an endless ballet of cars loading and unloading clients.
It is a real shame that one of the last wild beaches on the island has been spoiled with such disregard for the nature and the people of St-Barth. Making a beach club, a sort of new Nikki Beach there is beyond irresponsible due to the amount of people who have drowned and died on this beach in the past.
The latest incident was just 3 years ago when a swimmer drowned and died in the arms of my assistant. As a surfer, I have personally saved 3 people there in the last 2O years; and my story is one of many. Advertising people to come in crowds to this dangerous beach and consume food and alcohol in the heat thinking they are not going to swim is either stupid or criminal. Just this winter after the opening some clients were rescued by fellow surfers. Everyone involved in this beach club is putting lives in danger; and they will have to take responsibility when a drowning occurs, which is unfortunately just a matter of time.
Can we call ourselves “L’ile par excellence” if we allow things like this to happen? I reached the management of The Toiny for comments, they claim to be in perfect conformity with the law. “We believe that our sensitive and wholly law abiding improvement of our land adjacent to Le Toiny beach is of great benefit to the Island… and all its component communities… ecologically, environmentally, commercially and scenically.” In other words a project that enhances the area in an environmentally friendly way and enables people to better “enjoy the beauty of it all”. In our last correspondence they threatened me with legal action for discussing this project in PURE.
I don’t like to expose these kind of issues in my magazine. Surely it would be much easier to say Amen, take the money and advertise this project in PURE. But this is all too hard to accept when faced with such an shameful and dangerous project. PURE will always stand for St-Barth, as this is home, an island with a rare and beautiful spirit. It is ST-BARTH for a reason. Let’s not forget that it has earned its success because of it’s wild natural beaches and protected nature. It is the best place in the world according to Marco Glaviano. I agree with him.
St Barth, November 2016