Dart’s plan to remove beach rocks to undergo scientific scrutiny

Application includes support from beach expert

Dart Realty’s plan to remove rocks from the shallow coastal waters off Seven Mile Beach to create a more pleasant “beach entry experience” for hotel guests is under review by the Department of Environment amid significant public interest in the proposal.

The plan initially involves collection and analysis of rock samples to assess the feasibility of wholesale removal of “beach rocks” along a stretch of coastline, where Dart hopes to build a new five-star hotel.

The proposed location of the new Dart hotel. Tiki Beach restaurant can be seen on the right.
The stretch of Seven Mile Beach where Dart Realty wishes to remove beach rock before building a five-star hotel.

Environment Minister Wayne Panton acknowledged Friday that news of the plan had attracted significant interest. He said the coastal works application would be reviewed by scientists and staff at the Department of Environment before any decision is taken.

Tim Austin, deputy director of the department, said the precedent of allowing beach rock to be removed from Seven Mile Beach was “quite significant” and the application would be scrutinized carefully by the department’s technical review committee, which will make a recommendation to Cabinet on Dart’s coastal works application.

Dart Realty Chief Operating Officer Jackie Doak told the Cayman Compass last week that the removal of the rocks was central to the company’s plans for a five-star hotel, just north of the Kimpton, forming a wider “resort district” in the area.

Dart’s initial coastal works application, reviewed by the Compass, seeks to collect samples and assess the rock formations in the area to confirm that they are beach rock – which is fast forming and considered less ecologically or geologically significant than ironshore or bedrock. A second application would be necessary before the rocks could be removed.

Paperwork submitted with the initial application indicates it will involve collection of samples for analysis by Dr. Brian Jones, a geologist.

In a report, submitted with the application, Dr. Jones, wrote, “Slabs of rock that lie in shallow water below the high water mark along this stretch of coastline may be old beach rock. This suggestion however cannot be verified until samples of the rock can be collected and analyzed.”

The application also seeks permission to conduct trials to determine a safe rock removal methodology, ascertain the thickness of the rock and what lies beneath it.

It also carries an endorsement from Richard Seymour, a consultant in coastal processes, who authored the 2000 report, the Natural History of Seven Mile Beach, describing the “dynamic sand transport system” that shapes the beach.

He said the rocks had no impact on that process.

“Removing a major rock feature, which was capable of seriously influencing along-shore sand transport would require careful consideration, but that is not the case here,” wrote Mr. Seymour.

“Since the local along-shore and cross-shore transport of sand seems to be largely ignoring the presence of these rocks there is no reason to prohibit their removal.

“Since the utility of this section of beach for future hotel visitors will be greatly enhanced and the loss of sub-strata vegetation is minor, I would recommend that the rock removal be permitted.”

Murray Roed, author of “Islands from the Sea – Geologic stories of Cayman,” told the Compass that further investigation may be needed to determine if the rocks can be safely removed.

“My only concern is that no one knows how thick these beach rocks are. For that reason removal may involve substantial disturbance,” he added.

Mr. Roed describes the formation of beach rock as a “magical geologic process” because of the speed of which beach sand consolidates into rock.

In his book, he wrote that beach rock can form in as little as two weeks and that a layer of beach rock, analyzed in Cayman, had contained a Coca Cola bottle. Similarly beach rock, he writes, is susceptible to erosion during storms and can be destroyed overnight.

“They are everywhere in the process of being formed, or alternatively being destroyed, a remarkable manifestation of geology happening now,” he wrote.

Gabriella Hernandez, of Sustainable Cayman, said the group was interested to hear more about the application.

“We’d like to see an independent report and some analysis from the Department of Environment before we could be comfortable that it really would have no harmful impacts. “We’d also like to see some public discussion on this, so everyone understands what is planned.”


  1. If you check the shore line of the Coe Wood public Beach you will find a similar rock formation. This area used to be very sandy with tiny gravel stones, but after Hurricane Ivan something happened that caused, what I would call “Rock reef formation” along the shoreline at the Coe wood Public Beach.
    This formation of “Rock Reef” often times is very slivery at times make it very difficult and dangerous for a person to enter the sea directly from that waters edge. I was sad to have seen this happen, and on many occasions wished it could be removed. The surprising thing about this is that it was formed so very quickly after Ivan, so I am not surprised that all over the island you will find these rock formations along the shore line. How important to the environment, I don’t know, They sure cause the area where they are in to look untidy and it is dangerous walking on them because they are always slippery and grows moss on occasions.

  2. Ms Vargas take yourself back a few years before hurricane Ivan and ask yourself these questions. How was this area you’re talking about developed ? What kind of material was used on the grounds in that area ? Could it be that when two different kinds of material mixed together would cause what you are talking about.

    In 60 years of my life I have not seen what you’re saying along 7 mile beach over the years and no other Caymanian spent more time on the 7 mile beach than me .

    See my other comment accidentally put under lion fish article .

  3. I am well familiar with these rocks. I can well understand why Dart wants to remove them.

    This on a straight section of the beach and I cannot imagine how their removal will impact anything. However I freely admit I am not an environmental scientist.

  4. In his book , he wrote that beach rock can form in as little as two weeks.
    Mr Roed described the beach rock as magical geologic process , because of the speed of which beach sand consolidates into rock .

    I would like to ask Mr Roed a few questions, if beach rock can form in as two weeks , is this the same kind of beach rock that is in question ? Do these beach rock that form in two weeks , form the size they are to day ?
    What is “magical geologic process ” ? Is these rocks that are in question magical geologic process rocks ? If sand rocks are subject to erosion , why has these rocks that are in question been there for over 60 years that I know of , and hasn’t eroded away ? And those rocks has been through many hurricanes , and many southeast winds and hasn’t eroded away . Could it be possible that because of those rocks in question is the reason why the beach sand is deeper than other spots that doesn’t have the beach rock ? What happens when you mix marl fill from the swamp along with sand from the beach , would you get a different kind of rock from pure sand rock ?

    I look forward to your reply, until then I would think that a second opinion is needed.

  5. I love those rocks. They are formed magically by nature and should be left alone by man. If you don’t like rocks, don’t buy land where they are. If you don’t want to slip off rocks, don’t stand on them in the first place. If you want tidy, marry a virgo.

  6. Mr Roed I am still waiting for your response to the questions I asked you in my other comment to you . Or are you just writing books to mislead the Government and the people ?

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