Disney has been open about their interest in expanding into The Bahamas, and now it seems they’ve set their sights on Eleuthera. Back in May, Disney Cruise Lines spokeswoman Kim Prunty responded over speculation and confirmed the company’s interest in The Bahamas.
While the company has not confirmed where they’re looking to develop their next cruise ship port, it looks as if it will be Lighthouse Point on Eleuthera. Lighthouse Point sits on a 700-acre peninsula and has been on the market for $20 million the past few years.
Prunty stressed that any project pursued by the company would involve a “partnership with the community” and that they would commit to “sustainability, protecting the environment, creating jobs and economic opportunity, and celebrating the culture and stories of the area.”
Since May, it appears Disney has increased their interest in the property. Residents report that Disney representatives were recently on the ground in Eleuthera handing out T-shirt’s that read “a brighter future with Disney” and holding private meetings with local officials.
A recent town hall meeting in Eleuthera also discussed the economic development plan for Lighthouse point. Local government and official Disney representatives did not attend, but attendees received a handout outlining the plan. The two-page document outlines Disney Cruise Line’s proposed plan, their economic impact to the Bahamas as well as their conservation and community outreach ideas.
The plan calls for low-density development and setting aside 70-acres for conservation and leaving environmentally sensitive areas untouched. The proposal also mentioned leaving more than 100-acres of the property open to the public, including a public beachfront. It’s estimated that this project could result in 120-150 news operation jobs and an additional 100 jobs for construction. This doesn’t include jobs that could be created by tour operators, vendors, and other partners.
However, many locals are less than impressed. There is already a “Save Lighthouse Point” movement booming. The campaign describes Lighthouse Point as one of the most unique places on the Bahamas, home to a rich local heritage and ecological biodiversity.
Other local organizations have been looking to purchase the land including One Eleuthera Foundation, which has outlined sustainable ways in which this land and local heritage could be used. One proposed idea is to turn it into an eco-resort. The Bahamas National Trust has also expressed interest in making Lighthouse Point a national park.
Although Disney Cruise Line’s outlined plan seems nice, locals fear the massive company will bully them and that their promises will fade away once they have the land. In an article written by William Wong for The Nassau Guardian, he states that “like most of the Caribbean islands, we have been bullied and out-gunned by the cruise lines, and it appears that with them and in many other situations, we are often out-maneuvered and out-gunned by them; either we are blind to their foot work or just plain inept”.
Wong goes on to say that, “several cruise ships have islands in The Bahamas which are controlled with little benefit to Bahamians”. He later says, “if this jewel gets in the hands of Disney, we will not benefit, and only a few low-paying jobs would be dished out.”
It remains to be seen who will win the fight for Lighthouse Point- the passionate locals or the deep pockets of Disney.