The View
from Here:

    Ellen Lampert-Greaux lives in Petite Saline and is the editor-in- chief of Harbour Magazine for Saint Barth and Saint Martin. When she's not organizing the St. Barth Film Festival, or writing for various magazines including Live Design, MACO, and All At Sea, she turns her all-seeing eye upon local happenings.

    November '07
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   WALL STREET SBH!

Everyone’s love affair with Saint Barth has a beginning. Mine began almost 20 years ago when I first came to the island and was taken by its natural beauty, and the incredible views that cascaded one after the other around every hairpin turn. View of the clear turquoise waters that surround the island, views of the soft white sandy beaches, and views of the charming traditional houses with their candy colors and gingerbread trim. And the island was dotted with walls—pretty, little, and low, these old stones walls once divided properties, or ran along the edge of the roads. You not only admired these walls for their rustic charm, but you could see over them. Not until very recently did people start to build nine-foot walls around their houses with huge electronic gates. No one seems to care that the island now looks like the “wall street” of the Caribbean. Walls are popping up everywhere. Houses are being built below the road level in Lorient and Gustavia, for example, with every indication that walls will block what were once breathtaking views. Although I have to say that the folks in Gustavia get an A for efforts, having painted a faux view on the plywood construction panels currently blocking the view. But take Flamands for instance. What used to be a laid-back little neighborhood has become walled in. At one particular spot, instead of looking out at the ocean past a small house and an old hotel (long left in ruins, I’ll admit), you now can see the walls: the walls that protect new multi-million dollar villas from prying eyes. And across from these walls is another nine-foot concrete monster that looks as if it is being built to protect a hillside from collapsing as yet another villa is being built. And not only do they build walls along the roads, they build them along the beaches as well, to protect their land from the force of the waves that cause natural erosion. In St Jean the end result of walls along the beach seems to be a complete disappearance of the sand, which hotel owners are currently—and hopefully—dragging back from the ocean floor to create a beach for the tourist season. And why not, tourists certainly come here for the beach and St Jean is one of the most popular. But will these tourists continue to come when the island roads are but narrow ribbons between high concrete walls. Not much to see (and heaven help you if you meet a Hummer head on). No more breathtaking views unless you happen to own one and have happily built walls so that no one else can share it. What is this island coming to anyway? Is it possible that the bloom is starting to fade from the rose?

    More to come,
    Ellen Lampert-Greaux
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