Barkers’ Beach trash mars tourist experience

A West Bay tourism business operator is calling for a regular debris management programme to be enforced at Barkers Beach.

barkers beach

A steady trail of debris along Barkers Beach.
Photo: Cliodhna Doherty

‘I have to constantly explain to tourists why they see so much trash on the beach and that it’s because the current brings it on and it gets washed up,’ explained owner of Spirit of the West horseback riding business Paul Rivers. ‘They always ask ‘Isn’t anyone going to clean it up?’ and, honestly, there are some clean-ups but they are not on a regular basis.’

Mr. Rivers brought up the issue at a recent tourism related meeting in West Bay during which he asked Acting Director of Tourism Shomari Scott to sanction a programme to beautify and manage Barkers Beach in West Bay.

Mr. Scott said as it did fall under the tourism remit he would look into the situation and get back to Mr. Rivers.

Speaking to the Caymanian Compass, Mr. Rivers explained, ‘What I would like to see done with Barkers Beach is that we have a proper maintenance programme on the beach, cleaning it up all the time because people do visit it very often – locals and tourists alike.’

Spirit of the West is just one of four horseback riding businesses that operate directly on the beach. The others are: Pampered Ponies, Nikki’s Beach Rides and Honeysuckle Beach Rides.

The beach is also popular for locals to walk on or picnic, especially at Easter time.

Mr. Rivers said the main problem is the garbage drifts in from the sea.

‘The sad thing is in peak tourism season is when the winds pick up and more garbage is blown or washed up on to the beach so we definitely need a maintenance programme on the beach.’

He said it is admirable that some groups from time to time clean it up, but stressed that there needs to be a system of steady and regimented cleaning.

‘What we need to promote, help and protect our tourism product is a constant maintenance programme of cleaning the beach and it needs to be organised by an authority like the government or through the Department of Tourism.’

He explained how the debris mars Cayman’s image.

‘When I take pictures of people on my horses the debris is also in the pictures and that’s what people take back home.’

If the beach was cleaned up properly it could be maintained about twice a month by a heavy raking to keep the beach in pristine condition, he said.

Mr. Rivers is offering to take staff of the Department of Tourism and Members of the Legislative Assembly to ride with him on the beach and experience what the tourist sees.

‘I think for us to truly experience what we offer we must first experience it from the ones who we are advertising it to, to look at it from the tourists’ eyes.’

He added, ‘No matter what side of the political fence we sit on we should always come together to do the right thing for our country because at the end of the day tourism is all our product – it’s the bloodline of our economy and we must promote, preserve and protect it. So I look forward to working with whoever to better our tourism product.’

Mr. Rivers said that one of the comments he gets from tourists when they come to Barkers Beach to ride horses is that it’s like having their own private beach – they are back with nature versus being on Seven Mile Beach with its buildings and traffic.

‘It gives them more of an appreciation of an island being on this side – that’s what they come for, that island experience,’ he explained, noting that the Seven Mile Strip can be too much concrete for some of them.

Mr. Rivers is also calling for the Barkers beach accesses to be cleared.

‘We need to make the beach more accessible to tourists and locals alike, because locals like the beach too.’