BY INGRID BROWN Associate editor — special assignment firstname.lastname@example.org
RESIDENTS of Boston Bay in Portland are up in arms about the parish council's plans to divest the Boston beach, arguing that it will effectively be closed to locals, as is the case with the nearby Winnifred Beach, now under the remit of the Urban Development Corporation.
Councillor of the Fairy Hill Division Derron Woods, who revealed the plan to the Jamaica Observer North East last week, did not provide any details as to who the potential investors are likely to be. He, however, sought to allay residents' fears, noting that all will be done to ensure that locals have access.
"We want the Boston community to still be a part of this beach and so whatever we do, that has to be taken into consideration," he said.
The residents, meanwhile, blamed the lack of bathroom and changing facilities at the beach for the decline in visitors to the community and the subsequent downturn in the jerk business at the once thriving Boston jerk pit. The facilities were damaged by Hurricane Gilbert more than two decades ago, and despite years of promises by successive governments, the buildings are yet to be restored.
Woods said there are no immediate plans to construct new facilities there as the parish council, which is responsible for its operation, does not have the requisite funds.
"It just costs too much to do that and we don't have it," he told the Observer North East.
He explained that the bathrooms were out of service because the National Water Commission disconnected the water supply several years ago for non-payment of bills. Restoration of service, he said, was contingent on paying off the debt.
It is no consolation to residents who eked out a living from the once thriving Boston jerk pit and they are now reeling from the decline in visitors to the beach.
Kenton Taylor said the lack of facilities has had a domino effect as it has not only resulted in a decline in both local and overseas visitors to the parish, but has forced many persons like himself out of the jerk business.
"The jerk pork industry cut down because people not coming to the beach and that is why me haffi come out ah it," said Taylor, who once operated a jerk pit at the nearby Boston jerk venue.
Fellow Boston resident Murphy Gibbs is convinced that far more people would visit the beach and spend more money in the community if the facilities were in place.
"This is the best beach in Jamaica and it is a shame that it don't even have a bathroom for people to use if dem come here," he said.
Gibbs said those who continued to visit the beach have to purchase containers of water from a nearby eatery in order to take a shower.
"Trust me, it really look a way and very embarrassing fi no water no deh ah de place wid all these tourists coming here," he said.
Kezia Hoffenden, a tourist from the United States who had taken her small children to Boston beach for the first time on the day Observer North East visited, expressed disappointment at the state of the facility.
"It is very inconvenient because the kids do want to shower and use the bathroom and now they can't," she said.
Hoffenden said although she was required to pay $50 to use the bathroom at Hellshire beach in Portmore the day before, she very much preferred that arrangement to not having the use of the Boston facilities.
"It is better they were charging to use these facilities because people would not object to pay, rather than you show up here, especially with kids, only to find out they have no bathrooms," she said.
Had it not been for the lack of facilities, Hoffenden said Boston beach would have been a much sought-after place.
Meanwhile, a man who identified himself as the caretaker of the property, said the previous administration seemed set to restore the facilities and went as far as having persons take measurements in recent times. However, like previous promises, he said that too has failed to materialise.