Fringed with shady casuarina trees and dotted with pastel-coloured cabanas, Kaibo Public Beach Park is the perfect spot for a lazy Sunday. There’s a children’s playground, toilet facilities and plenty of grassy camping spots along the shoreline.
The only thing missing is the beach.
Years of erosion have wiped out the beach to the point that at high tide the wooden legs of those cabanas are wading in the shallow water. Now government plans to spend $1 million to stabilise and replenish the beach.
The National Conservation Council confirmed at its meeting last month that it would not object to government using the Environmental Protection Fund to complete the works.
Infrastructure Minister Joey Hew told the Compass that the council’s blessing meant the project could proceed.
“Every Easter we try to patch it up so people can camp. It is a very popular beach and we have to try to find a long-term fix,” he said.
“We have had an engineering report on the erosion at the beach and what we can do to fix it.”
A coastal engineering assessment prepared for government by Olsen Associates indicates that the shoreline at Kaibo Beach Park has eroded by more than 40 feet since 1994.
Environment officials noted in their remarks on the report that the beach is man-made on reclaimed land and the natural coastal processes are working to restore it to its normal state.
The consultants concluded that the erosion was only likely to get worse in the future.
“In the absence of intervention, the shoreline will continue to erode. It will not stop, and it will not recover. There is limited to no sand supply here, and the landform was artificially created.
“The wooden cabanas along the east shore will need to be relocated, along with some power [utility] poles. The existing trees at the shore’s edge will be undercut and fall. The beach will become increasingly less functional for public use.”
They recommended the construction of eight T-shaped stone groynes (breakwaters) around the circular headland that encompasses the park.
“This alternative would construct rock headlands and create small pocket beaches along the shoreline,” the consultants note.
This would mimic the so-called pocket beaches that nestle between the trees on the fringes of the shoreline already, but on a larger and more permanent scale, the consultants note.
Sand to replenish the beaches would be sourced from a shoal on the Rum Point side of the headland, the report indicates.
While offering its blessing for government to use some of the $10 million it has already pulled from the Environmental Protection Fund for beach acquisition and management for this project, the National Conservation Council recommended a separate fund be set up for managing beach impacts associated with coastal erosion.
“The Kaibo beach is not a natural beach. The majority of the Rum Point/Kaibo area is unnatural and man made, and natural processes operating in this location act to drive it towards reverting to its natural state,” John Bothwell, secretary of the council, wrote in a letter to the Ministry of Commerce, Planning and Infrastructure.
“Against the backdrop of the realities of climate change, the need for these works highlights the importance of environmentally sensitive, long-term planning regarding the development and modification of Cayman’s coastlines.
“It also further reinforces the need for adequate parks and recreation budgeting, and a separate properly managed infrastructure fund as a more appropriate funding vehicle to address these types of issues – whether they be shoreline modification or waste management improvements – rather than an environmental trust fund such as the EPF.”