On South Sound Road, a broad, well maintained path provides easy access to a crescent-shaped beach that curves toward the horizon.
A “beach access” sign clearly points the way from the road. It is logged among the few properly functioning paths in a recent report on public beach access.
But according to Lands and Survey records of the property, it does not officially exist.
George “Judge” Craig, says he created the path in 2004, after being granted permission to move a registered access, which he claims was overgrown and unused, to the western boundary of his property, in order to create easy access between two homes on the site.
Mr. Craig, who worked in construction at the time, says he spent $40,000 to create the vehicular access path, around 30 yards to the west of where it was originally located.
But when he came to sell one of the homes, he noticed the original access was still marked on the map.
When he queried this with government surveyors, he was told the change had not been documented at the time and there was nothing they could do to legally alter the access.
Mr. Craig said he was stunned to read in the Cayman Compass about the number of beach access paths that were being blocked by landowners, were overgrown with vegetation or lacking proper signage.
Of the 108 officially registered public rights of way in Grand Cayman, only 17 are listed as clear, with signs, according to a government report, the newspaper reported.
Mr. Craig said, “I thought here is someone who has worked to provide a perfect right of way, bought additional land to create it, maintained it for 14 years and government is saying ‘we don’t recognize it.’
“I am reading about people trying to protect their right to get to the beach and here we are trying to give them that access.”
The recently published beach access report refers to both the old access and the new one, noting that the old access, which no longer exists, is officially registered.
It does not comment on the legal status of the new path.
But a letter in January from David Fawcitt of the Lands Ministry to representatives acting for Mr. Craig indicates that the original path is the only one officially recognized in lands and survey documentation.
“The Registrar of Lands reviewed and advises there is nothing in the Registered Land Law to allow the Registrar of Government to vary this existing registered public right of way. A variance order does not exist in law.”
He indicated at the time that the department was seeking “urgent legal advice” on the matter.
Mr. Craig has kept correspondence from former chief surveyor Grant Vincent and former Permanent Secretary Kearney Gomez which appears to indicate approval for the path to be moved.
He acknowledged the failure to register the access had not caused problems for the property sale, but said it should be changed.
“It’s not right. All they have to do is move one dotted line,” he added.