Bills passed to protect beach access, regulate vendors

Legislators passed a pair of bills Tuesday to protect public access to Cayman’s beaches and regulate the activities of vendors who use the beach for their businesses.

Both the Prescription (Amendment) Bill, which allows government to apply to the Grand Court to settle disputes over beach access, and the Public Lands Bill, which creates a new unit to enforce those access rights and monitor commercial activity on the beaches, were unanimously approved for a second reading Tuesday.

Minister Kurt Tibbetts described the bills as “companion legislation” that would begin to deal with two long-running and contentious issues which he said had “plagued” Cayman for too long.

The amendment to the Prescription Law will allow government to use the courts to register beach access paths used by the public for more than 20 years, to ensure continued access.

This follows public complaints about landowners blocking paths, erecting fences and even building over established access routes.

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Mr. Tibbetts said Lands and Survey staff are setting up a database of all beach access paths to ensure registered paths are maintained and that government could begin court action to clear and register blocked paths that could be proven as prescriptive rights of way.

North Side MLA Ezzard Miller supported the amendment but suggested it needed to come with penalties for landowners who block access.

Both Mr. Miller and East End legislator Arden McLean suggested government needed to go further to defend the public’s right to the beach itself, not simply the access paths.

Mr. Miller said several businesses, including major hotels on Seven Mile Beach, had begun to encroach on the beach, and reported security guards “running off” beachgoers at various points.

He said the Prescription Law entitles people to use the beach, where it had been used for 20 years or more, and no private landowner could claim ownership of the beach up to the line of vegetation.

He added, “People keep pushing the envelope, and the more we allow them to get away with it, the more they are going to want to take.”

Mr. Tibbetts said the Public Lands Bill, also tabled and approved on Tuesday night, sought to regulate all commercial activity on more than 250 publicly owned sites, including beaches, launching ramps and docks.

He said a new Public Lands Commission would be responsible for managing and regulating activity on the beaches, including taking up access disputes.

The commission will oversee an inspection unit, responsible for policing vendors who use the beach.

Residents of beach condos near Public Beach have complained for years about the renting of beach chairs, umbrellas, Jet Skis, banana boat rides and other items, as well as the sale of food and drink on the beach, which residents said is “destroying” the serenity of the area with a “carnival-type” atmosphere.

Under the new bill, such businesses will have to seek a “vendor’s licence” and fulfil certain criteria, including first aid and customer service training. Vendors who cause problems or fail to meet certain criteria can have their license pulled.

Mr. Tibbetts said the aim is to “raise the quality of the product and the beach experience.”

He added, “Government’s main objective is to enhance the quality of the product and not to penalize traders. We want to see them prosper also.”

The bill was approved for a second reading with some amendments, both from government and from Mr. Miller, to be considered at the committee stage.

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  1. I do hope this is conveyed through all channels so the public can be aware. Because there are some places in Cayman that you cannot even walk the beach when all you see is no trespassing signs. You see this is the atmosphere that bring hatred within the community of foreigners and Caymanians, because the Caymanian feels threatened and then in turn develop an aggressive attitude towards the foreigner. Ok give you a story that took place in the sea up above Breakers area. A fisherman was doing his usual, Sprat catching with his sprat net out in the sea. A foreign man came down from his beach house and said to the fisherman “No no you cannot catch fish from out here this is my beach> The fisherman very furious decided not to even reply. The man went and got his two large German shepherds and ordered them to swim out and attack the fisherman. As the dogs kept coming towards the fisherman he cast his net over both of them and drew it. The dogs got entangled and almost drowned and the man was screaming on the beach. However all is well ends well, he pulled the net to shore with the dogs and told the man next time it will go over your head. Now every week the man waits for the fisherman who is now his best friend, and is given a few fish to cook. See how we can all get along, once we know where to draw the line.

  2. Here is the problem. People owns expensive condos on the beach. Like it or not they have paid a lot of money for them and OWN them.

    It is absolutely right and legal that everyone has the right to use the ocean and the beach up to a certain level, I believe the high water line.

    But they DON’T have the right to use the beach chairs that someone else owns and has paid for. Nor to use the private swimming pools or showers.

    It just isn’t right that the owners of that property can’t find a beach chair to us because a family has walked onto the beach from the road and has taken the last remaining chairs.

    Imagine looking into your back yard and finding complete strangers there having a picnic. Would you tolerate this? I think not.

  3. I agree Twyla that there’s some wrong beliefs and attitudes in some foreigners when they come to Cayman Islands . This has been around for a long time ,
    I personally had some experiences with the same disrespectful attitude , but I knew my rights and didn’t walk away, I confronted the aggressive attitude head on and all the times they learned to have respect for me.

    Then while we’re on the subject of beach public access . The contested property to the north of Smith Cove, I read that Government was going to finalize the deal on January 22nd 2017 , but haven’t heard or read anymore about that . Do anyone know if that was pushed under the rug ?

  4. I agree that anyone should be able to walk on the beach and go into the water. As was said above you can’t just sit on someones chairs that are infromt of a condo. It belongs to the owners of the condo. Also I do not understand the fishing with nets on SMB. I thought it was a protected area. If fishermen want to have fish out on the wall to catch there has to be baby fish near the shore growing up. If net fishing is allowed which takes the little fish near the shore there will be no big fish for fishermen or scuba divers. It seems the government does not understand what a protected area is