On the island nation of Barbados, Walker’s Quarry was born when the McNeel family discovered sand. A proposed hotel was to enjoy the beauty of the windswept and sun-drenched Walker’s Beach, but as they were surveying the land for the potential feasibility of the hotel, it was discovered that silica sand, essential in mixing concrete, was available in abundance.
Over the next half a century, Walker’s Quarry provided abundant sand to the island of Barbados while managing to steward and protect one of the largest native beach-side forests on the island. Nearly every building in Barbados is constructed, in part, from Walker’s Quarry sand suspended in concrete.
But as Barbados’s building industry exhausted Walker’s sand supply, it was time to shift focus to regenerating the land back to health, and turning Walker’s Quarry into Walker’s Reserve.
The Walkers Landscape is extremely complex, with just over 300 acres of land rising up majestically from the north eastern shore of Barbados. Landforms include steep sand dunes, intact forest, sand dunes, ponds, clay hills, sandstone cliffs, wetlands, and much more.
The regeneration of Walker’s Quarry and the idea to transform it into Walker’s Reserve has roots that go way back. The regenerative possibility of Walker’s was first born in the mind’s eye of Ian McNeel as he witnessed, as a child, the quarry operations that removed sand from the landscape.
“The most inspiring thing about this project is the amount we all have to learn from local wisdom about what regeneration looks like. Regeneration has to be sourced from place and culture and it is really the local community that is driving this process,” said Gregory Landua of Terra Genesis in an email to REVITALIZATION publisher Storm Cunningham.
The regenerative design process itself has been a multi-year pathway. In 2011, Ian McNeel contacted Terra Genesis International about starting the process that would ultimately lead to a regenerative end-of-use plan. Terra Genesis is an international permaculture consulting firm which works broad-acre restoration and regenerative supply chain projects around the world.
The McNeels and TGI have since worked together to craft the design that is now being carried out. The exhausted old Walker’s Quarry is continuing to transform itself into the vibrant Walker’s Reserve as you read this.
Walkers Reserve is a big undertaking. Shifting a piece of land from complete degradation back to holistic health requires an extensive process of analysis and design. Before a project such as this one can even get started on those aspects however, it must begin with goals.
- is returning extracted areas to ecological health following the extraction process of the quarry;
- is cultivating a mixed-use permaculture site providing food, fiber, medicine and livelihood;
- is mitigating, by design, potential ongoing environmental impacts that might have otherwise been caused by the extraction operation. i.e. soil erosion, landslides, and further ecological degradation;
- is providing habitat to threatened and endangered migratory birds and endemic species to the Lesser Antilles;
- is proving regenerative economic models are viable alternatives as post extraction;
- is engaging meaningful education and research with local and international institutions;
- is inspiring ecological and agricultural tourism for the Scotland District of Barbados;
- is providing meaningful livelihood opportunities for St. Andrew’s and neighboring parish residents;
- is conserving and restoring the last remaining dune system of it’s size in Barbados;
- is protecting the endangered leatherback turtle habitat;
- is striving to help stabilize the climate through reforestation and regenerative land use;
- is supporting the Organic Growers Association with permaculture training and skills;
- is providing a gene bank for the island of Barbados of rare and useful plants;
- is inspiring others in similar industry toward truly regenerative restoration goals.
With the hard work and knowledge of local and international experts, and the good will of the community and stakeholders, this area that was once mined to build Barbados is now being sculpted, planted and cared for, bringing back biodiverse health and climatological resilience to the land.
From a sand mining operation to an integrated, regenerative food-system, to a model and partnership that may reach across the Caribbean.