Details of what the enhanced Seven Mile Public Beach will look like were hashed out during a meeting between the Government and Dart Realty (Cayman) Ltd. on Monday.
Some of the improvements, which Dart Realty will make as part of what is known as the National Roads Authority agreement, are anticipated to be ready for the Easter holiday this year, when many Caymanians make their annual camping pilgrimage on the beach.
Minister of Tourism Cline Glidden Jr. said Wednesday that the government had tentatively agreed to the plan subject to the signing of a third amendment to the original National Roads Authority agreement.
“We think the [planned improvements] are a great enhancement to the existing beach in providing access and adding a level of safety to Public Beach,” he said. “Both from a visitor and resident experience, we think the enhancement is beneficial.”
The beach enhancement will involve the closure of 615 feet of West Bay Road, the southern part of the 4,290 feet of the road that will eventually be closed.
When the road asphalt is removed, the beach will extend east and incorporate three beach volleyball courts and a beach football/soccer pitch. A new restroom facility will be situated near those courts.
“From a sports tourism perspective, these courts can make some significant inroads into hosting beach volleyball and beach football events,” he said, noting that some of these events get overseas television coverage, helping promote the Cayman Islands.
Mr. Glidden said it is hoped the beach volleyball courts can be ready in time for the North, Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation tournament being held in Cayman at the end of March.
Parking at the facility for approximately 100 vehicles will be accessed along the new road on the south side of the beach that will connect West Bay Road with the Esterley Tibbetts Highway.
Beyond the beach volleyball courts will be a large open lawn that will feature along the perimeter a children’s play area, a splash park water feature and a dog park. The eastern section of the property, which will extend all the way to the Esterley Tibbetts Highway, will include a camp site and picnic area among shade trees.
The enhanced park, which will be 100 per cent publicly owned, will incorporate more than 12 acres of land – three acres of the existing Public Beach plus approximately nine acres of leasehold property that Dart will surrender to government 56 years early. Around the perimeter of the entire parcel will be a two-way multi-use trail that will become part of 2.4 miles of trails that traverse the whole length of the Dart properties purchased from developer Stan Thomas in January 2011.
An additional four miles of bike paths will be constructed along the new section of the Esterley Tibbetts Highway, up to Batabano Road.
Public access to the multi-use trails from the roadside will be available at several points, including at Public Beach, at Tiki Beach – where the Dart Group will expand the existing parking area – and at the north end of the Dart properties. There will also be access to the trails at multiple points from the beach side.
This network of trails will take various forms, including a boardwalk in sections, and travel along the beach and through mangrove/forest areas. Along the trail network will be benches, rest rooms and trash/recycling bins.
The beach-front trail will be placed between the ocean and new hotel the Dart Group will build to replace the old Courtyard Marriott.
Dart Realty Chief Operating Officer Jackie Doak said the hotel brand that will operate the new hotel – the name of which hasn’t been officially announced by the Dart Group but was reported in the Caymanian Compass last November to be the Kimpton – embraced having the trail between the hotel and the beach because of the dynamic it will bring.
Mr. Glidden stressed that the improvements to the Public Beach will be permanent and that it would remain public permanently.
“The enhanced Public Beach and even the improvements along the particular pieces of property where the road is being closed… represent a much more beneficial use of the property for the residents of Cayman.”