Are Jamaican beaches still for Jamaicans

Are Jamaican beaches still for Jamaicans

Thursday, July 09, 2020

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Dear Editor,

One of the most mismanaged assets of this beautiful island is the beaches that abound in every parish.

Not all seafront areas are suitable for sea bathing due to the miles of rocky shoreline that exist. And the best of what's left is exclusive to hotels and private ownership. The general public has very few choices of suitable beaches, unless they have the money to pay for access to the better developed ones.

A case in point is the Negril area. Of the seven miles of pristine beaches less than 200 yards are reserved for public access. The vast portion is developed by hotels built too close to the waterline. Detractors will argue that the public does have the right to walk along the legislative width of corridor from the water's edge, as allowed under the 1956 Beach Control Act, but that's only possible in very limited sections since amendments have allowed certain tourist facilities to restrict access to their beachfront.

The Urban Development Corporation (UDC), which has authority to develop and provide beachfront properties for public use, has short-changed Jamaicans badly. The priority developments undertaken by the UDC are mostly to facilitate tourist or to lease such properties to private entities that charge prohibitive fees for entry, such as the old Puerto Seco beach in Discovery Bay.

In most developed countries beach access is free, and other recreational areas such as parks have minimal access charges. In Barbados beach access is free. That Jamaicans have to pay for access to what is their natural heritage is ridiculous. Even an affordable cost for clean up and maintenance of structural facilities such as changing rooms would be acceptable, but currently the best sea bathing areas are restricted either by high entry fees or simply lack of access because of private interests.

Given these conditions, we have to ask if Jamaica is for Jamaicans. An enlightened approach on the management of our recreational areas is surely needed.

Keith Mills

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