The addition of Southlands to the list of National Parks was welcomed yesterday by Bermuda Environment Sustainability Taskforce cofounder Stuart Hayward.
Mr Hayward said the environmental group was relieved that Southlands would at last get protection thanks to legislation passed by the House of Assembly.
The National Parks Amendment Act 1 and 2, designed to modernise National Parks legislation and related fees, were approved by MPs at the end of last month.
The move by Government marks the end of a 10-year battle, which was first launched to prevent development at the Warwick Beauty spot, by BEST to win National Park status for Southlands.
Mr Hayward said: “As I understand it, to be added to this list the park has to have a management plan, so one assumes there is now a management plan for Southlands.”
He added: “The whole process in Bermuda has been neglected because of a shortage of funds and administrative difficulties.
“What it should mean is that Southlands is now protected against being cut into pieces for different commercial purposes and interests.
“It provides Southlands with a degree of protection, and for that we are grateful.”
He added: “However, the devil is in the detail. It has taken so long to reach this point that you can understand why we are looking at it with a wary eye.
“The legislation still has to go through the Senate obviously, but we have taken a big step closer to where we want to be.”
Former Premier Ewart Brown signed an agreement on behalf of the Government of Bermuda in 2008 with Southlands Ltd to swap 80 acres of land at Morgan’s Point for 37 acres of land at Southlands.
The property was handed over to Government under the land-swap agreement in 2012, but it took five more years for the estate to be designated as a National Park.
Mr Hayward added: “The reason BEST got involved in the first place was because there was a risk that 37 acres would be converted from near pristine woodland into a hotel and condo development.
“So to have that 37 acres protected from development is a signal accomplishment. It was our first major project and it’s a real boon to have Southlands added to the list on our tenth anniversary.”
Under the new legislation, which has still to go before the Senate, 16 new protected areas are created including Cooper’s Island Nature Reserve, Clearwater Park, Stocks Harbour Nature Reserve and Southlands Park.
The amendments also give the minister the power to waive fees under certain conditions and make changes to the membership of the Parks Commission.
Mr Hayward said: “The modernising of the fees structure is also a giant step forward.
He added: I’m not sure how they will look to allocate those fees to be used in the upkeep, but the concept is good and the intention is good.
“If the outcome measures up to the intention, that is another thing to feel good about.”
The commission will now include representatives from the Bermuda National Trust, the Bermuda Audubon Society, the Bermuda Zoological Society, the Bermuda Tourism Authority and the National Museum of Bermuda.
The amendments also pave the way to include two “users” of the park system and four people selected for knowledge of environmental protection, conservation and economic and commercial affairs on the Parks Commission.
Mr Hayward said: “They have changed the make-up of the Parks Commission. One of the criteria states that two members must be “users of the parks”. I don’t know how they will do that and it would be nice to get some clarity on that aspect.”