Dr Love, UDC battle over beachTuesday, June 29, 2021
BY KIMBERLEY PEDDIE
NEGRIL, Westmoreland – Rolland “Dr Love” Martin feels underappreciated.
For more than 40 years, he said, he has maintained a beach in this resort town, and though it is now informally named after him, the local authorities refuse to recognise his efforts. But, the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) is clear on its position: Martin is a squatter who needs to get off their land.
“We are here from 1981… where we start to take care of the beach from way in the days,” said a proud Martin. “Wi nuh wah dem tek wi fi nuh squatters, cause wi all tek the mountain come to the beach,” he added, pointing to numerous fruit trees he says he has planted near the beach over the years.
Long Bay Beach Park has, over the years, also become known as Dr Love Beach, and both names pop up in Google searches. Dr Love is even mentioned in posts by travel website Trip Advisor. Martin makes a living from selling his artwork to tourists and locals who frequent the area. He lives in a tent on the beach and shares the spot with his friend, Barrington “Quabie” Bowens, who told the Jamaica Observer they pay dues to “a man who works with UDC”.
But, in a written response to the Observer, the UDC said while they are aware of the men illegally living on their premises, no tenancy agreement exists between the corporation and Martin. In fact, the UDC says it has repeatedly attempted to have him removed, issuing him with a notice to quit and, with the help of the local police, have in the past removed his belongings from the beach. They also warned that they intend to make a renewed push to remove the two men from their property.
Martin appears to be relying on squatters' rights to stake his claim, telling the Observer he has been maintaining the property. The law says anyone who acts as an owner (maintains property, erects structures, etc) for 12 years or more may have a legal claim. They must also have others ready to vouch that they have acted as an owner. However, all of that only applies if the true owner makes no attempt to also act as an owner, or has not made any claim to the land, for example, by issuing the other party with a notice to quit.
Residents of the area, meanwhile, are keeping a watchful eye on the tussle between Martin and the UDC.
Beachgoer Lancia Pitters said she has known Martin for more than 20 years, and he always keeps the beach clean.
“I think the people from UDC need to step in and give them a hand, give them the okay to build something,” said a concerned Pitters, who also spoke of the tourists that return to buy Martin's works of art.
Orange Bay resident Kerry-Ann Gayle agreed with Martin's call for recognition of what, they say, is the work he has done in making Dr Love Beach a well-known attraction.
“He deserves [recognition] for real. A lot of tourists come and take pictures of his stuff, and he always lends my children [floatation devices],” she said.
Pan chicken vendor Devon “Chickenking” Ewart agreed.
“Him need some recognition for this beach, because he's a part of the trees that are planted, he's a part of taking care and making sure it's clean,” he said.
Though he has been removed in the past and the UDC is adamant that he will be again, Martin is still appealing to the Government to help him regularise his status and build a shop from which he can sell his wares.
“[Either] wi a guh pay some tax fi that, or unuh a guh build wi a shop,” he suggested as he fed African perch in a nearby stream.
Meanwhile, the UDC told the Observer that it strongly discourages the establishment of any informal commercial operation on beaches, attractions, or any properties under its purview. The corporation added that it currently operates two craft markets in the western region, Success Craft Market and Rutland Craft Market, for people who wish to ply their trade.
Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at https://bit.ly/epaper-login