Public health officials announced Thursday all of Blacktip Island will be paved to combat the growing mosquito menace threatening the small Caribbean island.
“The mosquitoes are out of control,” Tiperon Islands Public Health chief Ferris Skerritt said. “Residents are complaining. Resort guests are complaining. The potential for malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, ugly red welts, it’s hurting tourism, and that’s the hand that feeds us all.
“Standing water’s the issue. That’s where they breed. Get rid of the water, you get rid of the mosquitoes. Problem’s always been getting to all the pools on the island, and keeping them drained. Covering the island completely in a protective sheath of asphalt and concrete will solve those problems.”
Not all island residents are happy with the decision.
“With no ponds, there’ll be no bird habitat,” longtime resident and Blacktip Audubon Society president Nelson Seagroves said. “That, by itself, will kill tourism. Birders flock to Blacktip this time of year for the flyway migrations. It’s a stopover point for birds going between North and South America.”
Other locals are concerned about the project impacting their more basic needs.
“We rely on groundwater for drinking, cleaning, everything,” said resident Hugh Calloway. “If the island’s paved, where will we get water to survive?”
Public Works spokesperson Stoney MacAdam allayed those concerns.
“We’ll be building a state-of-the-art water desalinization plant as part of this project,” MacAdam said. “There’ll be more water, cleaner water than ever before. Residents will be able to purchase as much as they need.
“As for the birds, they draw feral cats, another public health threat. Bird flu’s a concern as well. Also, these migratory birds are non-native. They can’t be allowed to slow progress in this country.”
The first area slated for paving is the nature preserve adjacent to Eagle Ray Cove.
“It’ll be unsightly for a while, sure,” Eagle Ray Cove owner Rich Skerritt said. “But we’ll pretty it up with a new block of rooms and a swimming pool to maximize our guests’ vacation experience.”
The contract for the project has been awarded to Skerritt Construction and MacAdam Paving, raising concerns about possible conflicts of interest. Both the Skerritts and MacAdam brushed aside those concerns.
“This is about public health. Period,” Ferris Skerritt said. “And the economy.”
“For the good of the community, Blacktip Island needs to be paved,” MacAdam said. “And I’m just the man to do it.”
“This isn’t over,” the Audubon Society’s Seagroves said. “We’re going to fight beak and claw. This one’s for the birds.”