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Watersports operators displaced after latest closure to former West Bay Road

It’s the end of an era, as the last vestiges of the former West Bay Road are removed to make way for new development.

The ink has long been dry on the NRA agreement, signed in 2011. That deal included both the extension of Esterley Tibbetts Highway to Batabano Road, and the legal closure of a section of West Bay Road.

One long-time watersports operator says as the old road is broken up and trucked away, his business is being displaced for a second time in five years.

“It’s a sign of the times, it’s unfortunate, but I guess this is how it’s going to be,” said Ambassador Divers’ Jason Washington.

For him, the closure of Old West Bay Road is the end of an era.

“I don’t know where we will go from here,” said the Scuba Diving Hall of Fame honouree.

For 27 years, Mr. Washinton said his business embarked and disembarked its dive guests, mainly stay-over visitors, along the beautiful Seven Mile Beach.

“We operated on the property in front of the Kimpton prior to the Kimpton being built, and back in those days, we were grandfathered in to using the property,” said Mr. Washington.

He told Cayman 27 that his company secured permission to operate on this land around a decade ago, after providing several years of documentation to planning.

Workers remove pieces of the former West Bay Road on 11 July

After the first stretch of road was closed in March of 2013, he said he and a handful of other displaced dive operators signed leases on a piece of Dart-owned land north of Tiki beach.

“I am very appreciative of everything that these guys have given to us, Dart, Decco. They have allowed us to use this beach since they kicked us off the Kimpton property, that was our property, we were grandfathered into that property, they couldn’t stop us from using it,” said Mr. Washington.

Dart Real Estate told Cayman 27 Ambassador’s lease expired in April 2016, and that the last of its current leases on the site expires this month.

Mr. Washington said he’s left with few options.

“I understand development, I am a local business owner, I get it, it’s just unfortunate that we are being displaced again, we don’t have another place to go,” he said.

While the legal closure of Old West Bay Road was set into motion almost eight years ago, the impacts are still felt acutely today.

Mr. Washington said the biggest losers are his customers, who are losing out on a unique diving experience.

“Stepping off of the beach and onto the dive boat, absolutely adds another layer of, ‘man, I am on a beautiful Caribbean island, this is the way it should be,’ that is absolutely where, I think that is where we should operate from,” said Mr. Washington.

Mr. Washington told Cayman 27 he’s likely to join other dive operators who load and unload their guests at public facilities like West Bay Dock and the Whitehall Bay Dock in George Town.

The Planning department was unable to immediately confirm Ambassador’s grandfather status when contacted Friday afternoon.

 

***this article was amended from the original to correct the name of the highway included in the NRA agreement***

About the author

Joe Avary

Joe Avary

Joe Avary has been with Cayman 27 since 2014. He brings 20 years in television experience to the job, working hard every day to bring the people of Cayman stories that inform the public and make a difference in the community. Joe hopes his love for the Cayman Islands shines through in his informative and entertaining weather reports. If you have a story idea for Joe or just want to say hello, call him at 324-2141 or send an email to josephavary@hurleysmedia.ky

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