In a two-pronged effort to clean sargassum from the beaches and to create the highest point in the Tiperon Islands, Blacktip Island residents are urged to bring beached seaweed to a central collection point, dubbed ‘Mount Sargassumore’ atop the island’s southern bluff. (photo by Wendy Beaufort/Blacktip Times staff)
Blacktip Island civic leaders this week began building the highest point in the Tiperon Islands by collecting washed up sargassum and turtle grass into one mound, ‘Mount Sargassumore,’ on top of the Caribbean island’s southern bluff..
“A couple of years ago Tiperon started billing itself as the highest point in the Tiperons to attract tourists worried about being on a low-lying island during hurricane season,” Blacktip Island Chamber of Commerce president Whitey Bottoms said. “Turned out, that was great marketing. Their hotels are full all through the summer.
“Problem is, their gain’s been Blacktip’s loss,” Bottoms said. “Here it is mid-July and our resorts are half empty. We’re barely scraping by. Most places are closing for August and September.”
Island Council members suggested a seaweed mountain to solve multiple problems.
“That southwest wind’s been piling sargassum knee-deep on the beaches,” mayor Jack Cobia said. “Resort guests can’t get to the water, the smell could choke a goat, and the sand flies eat you alive.
“We have to haul the stuff somewhere, so we’re killing two birds with one stone,” Cobia said. “The beaches get cleared, and all the seaweed goes to one central spot to form our new mountain.”
Residents say the growing hillock has become a source of island pride.
“Mount Sargassumore will put Blacktip Island on the map,” said long-time resident Ginger Bass. “The piled seaweed dries and rots, so it’s a bit of two feet upward, one foot back, but we’re committed to making this a reality.
“Everyone’s bringing whatever seaweed they can, be it by the truckload or the bucketful,” Bass said. “The slightest handful may be the very bit that keeps our bars in business.
The project is not without its detractors.
“We live directly downwind of that monstrosity and you can’t imagine the stench,” resident Frank Maples said. “Even inside with the air conditioning on, it makes your eyes water. Everything we eat or drink tastes like rotted fish, and as soon as we step outside the midges nearly carry us away.
“A mountain is fine, but why not down south where no one lives?” Maples said. It’s island politics, plain and simple. Booger Bottoms didn’t want the reek chasing customers away from his Last Ballyhoo bar. On Blacktip, it pays to be a Bottoms.”
Despite the criticism, officials are optimistic about the project’s success.
“The goal is 200 feet of elevation by the end of July, and we may reach that with days to spare,” Whitey Bottoms said. “Then we’ll put a flashing light on top as a navigational beacon. And for the safety of low-flying aircraft.”