When my daughter and I were in Aberdeen, Scotland visiting friends, our hosts took us on a tour of a remote area of Scotland along the North Sea. The area was called Balmedie Beach, and it is as remote and wild as anything you will see along the coast of British Columbia. Balmedie Beach is particularly famous for its magnificant sand dunes, which stretch along the beach for 15 miles. It is the fifth largest sand dune system in the British Isles, and is of special scientific interest, in addition to its exquisite beauty. We stopped to have tea and sticky toffee pudding at a wonderful little inn overlooking the beach, and I was gobsmacked by the beauty of the place.
Close to the beach is a property called Menie House, a 14th century country property surrounded by over 200 acres (0.81 km2) of private land, collectively known as the Menie Estate. Donald Trump purchased a large part of the estate in 2006. And wouldn’t you know it, what does he plan to build there? Of course, two 18-hole gold courses, a 450-room hotel, conference centre and spa, 36 golf villas, 950 holiday homes, accommodation for 400 staff and residential developments comprising 500 houses. Although this would substantially damage native sand dune habitat at a Site of Special Scientific Interest, according to analysis by Scottish Natural Heritage, planning officials from Aberdeenshire Council have recommended approval of the development.
The "great vistas and majestic dunes" had a "magical quality", Trump gushed earlier this year. With a neat twist of logic, he declared his course would "save" the dunes by arresting their movement, fixing them rigid with artificially planted grasses.
Environmental experts - including his own - disagree. His plans to place the back nine holes of his main 18-hole course here would decimate the links, designated a site of special scientific interest for four types of dune habitat: shifting dunes, fixed or grey dunes, decalcified fixed dunes and humid dune slacks, or hollows. They are home to what Trump's own expert described as an "excellent mosaic" of lichen-rich grasses, dune willow, sand sedge, common bent-grass and sheep's fescue, with soft rush, sweet grass and creeping bent-grass in the swampier areas.
In turn, the habitat supports wildlife such as skylarks, otters, pipistrelle bats, badgers and toads. The dunes are also periodic nesting sites for migratory pink-footed geese using the Ythan estuary, Sands of Forvie and Meikle Loch 3km to the north.
Yet despite its stark beauty, locals remain unconvinced that Trump can build a millionaires' paradise there. It is, after all, on the same latitude as southern Alaska. As Michael Forbes, the local salmon fisherman who refuses to sell Trump his unsightly 23-acre plot right next to the proposed course, put it on Monday after the news was announced: "Who in their right mind is going to come to this cold place and play golf? They'll come once and they'll never be back again."
It is said there is a ghost at Menie House, known as "the Green Lady". I hope she haunts Donald Trump and scares him the h*ll off the property. There are places on this earth that are meant to be left alone, and the wild coast of Scotland is one of them.