With historical news articles, government reports, maps, and affidavits, a new website called Cayman Beach Watch is a clearing-house of information on public beach access issues dating back to the 1960’s.
The website lays out its basic premise in a simple statement, “Access to the sea is as important to us as is breathing.” It presents a timeline of events that takes us from the early conflicts over beach access to where we are today.
Cayman Beach Watch traces the beginnings of the nagging issue of beach access to the 1950’s and 1960’s. That’s when it says waterfront properties were bought up by foreigners unaccustomed to, and it is suggested, ‘unappreciative’ of the indefeasible communal rights of access the sea.
After some of these foreign owners attempted to prevent the use of these public rights-of-way, conflicts arose.
In 2001 Caymanians mobilised, submitting some 500 affidavits to the Registrar of Lands, identifying hundreds of long-established beach access rights-of-way.
Local activist Billy Adam said those painstakingly collected affidavits were destined to go nowhere for several years.
“The tragedy is, these were submitted in 2001 and the government never replied until January 2017, 16 years they have been held by the government, and then it was to refuse to register them,” Mr. Adam told Cayman
In 2003, as those affidavits gathered dust, government produced a report entitled “Beach access: a way forward,” which listed six recommendations to ensure long-term beach access in West Bay, Seven Mile Beach, and North Side. Among them: gazetting access points under the roads law, erecting signage marking the access points at both sides of the pathway, and setting a minimum width of six feet for access paths.
Through the years, Mr. Adam said successive generations of politicians have done just enough to keep the issue from boiling over, without bringing forth a real and lasting resolution.
“This is something that bubbles up and goes down, bubbles up and goes down, and it goes down because of the misguided belief in the political regime and the government,” said Mr. Adam. “Because they do enough to quell it, and for it to go off the fire for a while until it rises up again, they don’t have a resolution, what we need is a resolution that will stay that is long-term, that is permanent.”
Last October, the successful fight to Save Smith’s Barcadere from development, and subsequent high-profile beach access cases on Boggy Sands road and more recently on Old Prospect road, have once again thrust the issue into the spotlight..
Will 2017 be the year for a resolution?
“The answer for that is in the Caymanian people. Are they going to sit down again and allow this issue to die down, and be quelled, or are they going to do what they normally don’t do, and that’s get involved rather than sitting and complaining on a bar stool or a front porch,” said Mr. Adam.
The most recent report on beach access, Lands and Survey’s 2017 draft beach access combined report, chronicles some 146 beach access points in Seven Mile Beach, various parts of West Bay, and North Side. With photos, maps, and descriptions of blockages or impediments.
It’s understood that the report for other areas of Grand Cayman and the sister islands was completed this March, but that has not yet been made available to the public.