Facing severe opposition from nearby residents, Disney Cruise Line canceled plans to build a cruise port on an unspoiled Bahamian island.
Line's officials said they backed off plans after the initial environmental study found the work would damage coral on Egg Island, uninhabited isle off the north coast of Eleuthera, ringed by pristine reef. The company, which also leases an island off Great Abaco, wished to create a 2nd exclusive stop with a terminal.
Disney Cruise Line spokeswoman Kim Prunty said in a statement:
“We recently completed a careful and thorough review of a project at Egg Island and determined that the environmental impact of our intended development would be too significant.”
News of the project outraged residents of nearby Spanish Wells, who quickly organized a petition that collected nearly 3,000 signatures and prompted the local district council to demand answers from Prime Minister Perry Christie.
Christie did not respond to Herald requests for comment but Friday in a text message Kenred Dorsett, minister of Environment and Housing, said,
“We are just happy to hear the project will not go forward and the environment in the area will not be destroyed.”
Dorsett said he had not seen a copy of the study, but Disney officials confirmed that an initial assessment had been submitted to the country’s commission that oversees conservation.
Rumors about the project began swirling in the tight-knit village after drilling equipment turned up on the public dock in Spanish Wells in June and then, because of a customs dispute, sat on the dock for another month drawing attention. Attorney Holly Peel, whose grandfather Leo Pinder helped pioneer the island, tracked down a temporary business license pulled by an Orlando engineering company working for Disney.
Opposition quickly mounted and spread, said Spanish Wells deputy district councilor Robert Roberts.
“There were a lot of Bahamians participating. Not just here, for sure,” he said. “The [prime minister] was on the radio, a talk show, and it became an issue.”
Turning islands into private retreats for cruisers has grown in popularity since Norwegian first leased Great Stirrup Cay in the 1970s. Including Disney’s Castaway Cay, five islands in the Bahamas now provide exclusive island vacations with private beaches, fake shipwrecks and water slides. At the opposite end of Eleuthera, Princess Cruise Lines operates Princess Cays on 40 acres of beachfront.
But residents say Egg Island, the only remaining cay in the district not privately owned or leased, has long been used by locals for beach parties and summer getaways. At just 12 acres, the island is beloved for its undisturbed shores, where turtles regularly nest, and a reef just off the beach. Until recently, the Higgs family held a 99-year lease but surrendered it when the family patriarch died, Roberts said.