Though there are 279 public rights of way to beaches in Grand Cayman alone, keeping those paths properly mapped and maintained has proven a challenge for the Public Lands Commission, and quite a number remain inaccessible.
The commission has made some progress clearing 36 of the 91 blocked or partially blocked rights of way identified in a 2018 beach access report.
To get a clearer picture of public accessibility, the Compass set out to investigate beach rights of way along the main roads from East End to West Bay.
Out of the 64 accesses the Compass looked at, around 30 were either completely blocked, had obstacles in their path or were not properly marked.
On Grand Cayman, according to the Lands and Survey Department 2018 beach access report, 108 rights of way have been registered, but there were also 112 unregistered paths to the sea.
Seven Mile Beach access well maintained
The Compass found that marked beach-access points along West Bay Road, from Kirk Market on North Church Street to Seven Mile Public Beach, were generally unimpeded and properly maintained.
However, most of the access points were footpath size, which limited accessibility for those with mobility challenges.
In some cases, limited-to-non-existent parking spaces for those wanting to get to the water provided another deterrent to using these access points.
On the other hand, two of three paths identified and clearly marked behind Queen’s Court Plaza on Snooze Lane, off West Bay Road, were blocked.
One sign pointed to a chain-link fence, while the other was obstructed by scaffolding from a nearby construction site.
West Bay sign points to wall
In West Bay, the Compass checked out Boggy Sands Road, which was one of the problem areas the Lands and Survey Department highlighted.
There were clearly visible pathways to the sea along this narrow road, but there were no marked signs, nor did they appear open to the public, with locked gates blocking access.
There was one open, marked access path.
Along the main thoroughfare of North West Point Road, there was a shiny beach access sign pointing directly into a perimeter wall bordering two buildings. Further down, on Conch Point Road, there were marked beach-access paths, but these proved difficult to navigate.
For one such path, there were concrete blocks in the middle of the entrance, while another on the periphery of Villas Pappagallos consisted of a concrete walkway leading to the back of the complex, then connecting to a footworn path to the beach.
No entry for Prospect Point
In the George Town area, access points in South Sound did not seem impeded. However, at nearby Prospect Point, that was not the case, with three paths blocked.
One of the access points, close to the Lantern Point gated community, was a sandy path overgrown with shrubs that ended abruptly at a concrete wall. A concrete path continues along the side of the wall, but that has been blocked by bushes and other obstructions.
Another sign a few feet away pointed directly to bushes, and it was difficult to determine which side a beachgoer was supposed to use. One side of the shrubbery had a small pathway, but that was blocked by vegetation.
A short walk from that area led to another beach-access sign that appeared twisted and pointed into the yard of a property with an exterior fence, bordered by thick bushes.
The Compass attempted to navigate a possible path, but fewer than 20 yards in, there was nowhere to go as the thick bush made it impassable.
Signs to nowhere in eastern districts
Driving to East End for fish fry on a Sunday is a Cayman tradition and for anyone heading in that direction, it’s easy to spot marked beach accesses along the way.
However, upon closer inspection, some of those paths are not what they seem.
In Breakers, there were three marked accesses in quick succession. One of the registered paths had two clearly visible signs but these pointed to an area blocked by a chain link fence and covered with thick bushes.
Another sign further along led to a tree in the middle of the path, together with short stumps, making it difficult to navigate. A short distance away, there was a third sign pointing to overgrown bushes.
At Moon Bay Condos, there was a beach access sign pointing into the complex carpark, but there was no obvious path to the water.
The sign for the popular Barefoot Beach was visible from the main road, but it pointed to an area that has a concrete wall, thick shrubs and no visible path.
An exploration of North Side yielded a mix of clear and blocked paths.
In Cayman Kai, two marked paths were overgrown with thick bushes that became almost shoulder height as the walkway got closer to the water.
At the end of the day-long exploration, it was clear many beach-access points were either poorly maintained or the victims of deliberate acts to block the public’s right of way.
The regulations to give enforcement teeth to the Public Lands Commission have yet to be approved, but once those are enacted, those violating access rights and refusing to remove obstructions when told to do so by the commission could face legal action.