With all the attention paid to blue iguanas, mangroves and our islands’ many other environmental wonders, we must not forget what may be our greatest natural resource (and tourist attraction) of them all: Cayman’s beaches.
Plentiful, beautiful and free to the public, Cayman’s beaches are integral to our “island home” – serving as living rooms for gathering with friends and family, gymnasia for jogging or swimming, banquet halls for weddings and birthday celebrations, and retreats where we go to breathe deeply, relax and renew.
The world-renowned beauty of our crystalline beaches is fundamental to our economy – enticing visitors from around the globe to sink their toes into the powdery white sand and gaze across turquoise waters. Indeed, U.S. News & World Report not too long ago proclaimed Seven Mile Beach as the finest beach in the world.
Our beaches should be revered. Instead, we are witnessing a noticeable decline in their protection and preservation – a slow erosion of respect, evidenced by the trash and other detritus left by thoughtless beachgoers and in the increasing prevalence of antisocial behaviors that just as surely, if less apparently, bespoil our beaches.
This past Sunday, local volunteers removed more than 1,100 pounds of trash from Beach Bay beach in Bodden Town. An earlier effort by the same group last month yielded some 488 pounds of garbage from Colliers Beach in East End. If that sounds like a lot (and it is), consider all the trash different groups of volunteers pick up from other beaches throughout the year, as well as the refuse that goes uncollected.
Littering is not the only indignity Cayman’s beaches (and beachgoers) are subjected to. All along our coast, pristine beaches are becoming staging areas for selfish, if not downright sketchy, misbehavior.
At West Bay Beach (near the Four-Way Stop), which is one of the most picturesque “boutique beaches” in Cayman, the daily specter of unsavory habitués has created an atmosphere that is disquieting, if not outright threatening, to visitors and residents alike.
The many groups blasting music at the Public Beach on Seven Mile Beach have turned weekends (and many weeknights) into a head-splitting “battle of the bands.” Unlicensed (and sometimes rude) vendors and peddlers have added unpleasantness to what should be an inviting and idyllic experience.
At Cayman’s beloved Smith Cove, the convivial character of this usually quiet, family-friendly beach has been eroded by acts of thievery and other antisocial behavior.
At Coe Wood Beach in Bodden Town – long a gathering place for the community – unsavory elements have taken to occupying the beach at night, after decent folks have gone home to bed.
And then there’s our beautiful Rum Point, which is now becoming a gathering place for marauding motorbikers, public intoxication and otherwise unacceptable behavior.
One thing is certain: Ongoing tolerance of rude, dangerous or even criminal activity will attract more such misbehavior.
Eventually, the average citizen (responsible, considerate and “CaymanKind”) will find other things to do. Residents will avoid troublesome beaches, and tourists will find other beaches, perhaps in other locales, to visit. We cannot allow that to happen.
We must gather as a community to insist that this troubling arc be halted. Law enforcement (backed by politicians, prosecutors, public leaders and, most importantly, the general public) must “draw a line in the sand” on crime, vandalism, littering and loitering on our beaches.
We must treat them – and respect them – for what they are: Our islands’ most precious assets.