Conflicts over beach access have been smouldering in the Cayman Islands since the 1950’s and 60’s. Decades later, access to the beach is still a relevant and a very hot button issue across our islands.
Cayman 27’s continues our year in review series with a look at some major developments in beach access over the past twelve months.
The long-simmering issue nearly boiled over in December 2017. Tempers flared in the Boggy Sands corridor in one heated beach access dispute caught by Cayman 27 cameras. Elsewhere on the island, dozens of beach access paths were found blocked, unmarked, and without proper signage.
In January 2018, the eight member Public Lands Commission was formed, tasked with protecting the right of access to and use of public land by members of the public, including enforcement of public rights of way over private land.
In February, the 2017 Beach Access Report was publicly released, compiling all registered and unregistered public beach access rights of way on all three islands for the first time.
“When we were boys growing up you could just walk through anybody’s land in a sense of speaking and get access to the beach,” reminisced Winston Hurlston in a March interview.
Cayman 27’s extensive coverage of beach access issues put the mammoth 1,174 page report under the microscope.
In April, Lands Minister Juliana O’Connor-Connolly told Cayman 27 in an exclusive interview that she believes the report came at a critical juncture in the country’s development.
“Development has come, prosperity has come, and if we do not take the necessary steps to document and preserve it whether through the prescription act or through it’s going to court, then we are going to find that not only the Caymanian but visitors alike would lose that wonderful privilege of going down to the sea for the sun and serenity that Cayman offers,” said Ms. O’Connor-Connolly.
In June, Dart-affiliated Crymble Landholdings was granted permission from the Central Planning Authority to relocate a 12 foot public right of way from directly in front of the Kimpton Seafire to the property’s northern boundary.
In September, the first of 40 newly-redesigned beach access signs started appearing at unmarked registered public rights of way.
“Development is one thing, but why should we destroy everything that means something to Caymanians,” questioned Alice Mae Coe of the Concerned Citizens group in November, as new frontier emerged in the battle to preserve beach access.
Popular Seven Mile Beach watering hole Calico Jack’s announced plans to move to a parcel of Dart-owned land in the Barker’s area pending approval of a controversial coastal works application.
According to the 2017 report, that piece of land is already home to four unregistered beach accesses.
Cayman 27 reached out to the Public Lands Commission multiple times in 2018 to request an interview. Hopefully we’ll have better luck on in 2019.
As for beach access signage, the PLC said its goal is to get all of the 108 registered beach accesses on Grand Cayman, the 10 on Little Cayman, and the three in Cayman Brac properly marked.