There are public beach accesses and there is private property used as public beach access.
All beaches in the Turks and Caicos are to be used by all persons especially for recreational purposes. Recently with the increase in tourism and the need to provide activities for tourists, the beaches are also being used for commercial purposes. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that as this is a livelihood for many people, especially some young people. However, there must be controls in place and the beaches should not be overused for commercial purposes creating environmental issues. This is why I support the beach and coastal vending bill. If you don’t put controls and measures in place, anyone will be popping on these beaches conducting business and harassing our tourists and residents.
For years now, there has been a major issue for individuals wanting to get to some of the beaches and that issue is some of these beaches do not have public beach access. As a result, some individuals are trespassing on private property to get to the beach. Because some of us have been accessing the beaches through these properties for years, we take it for granted that they are public beach accesses but some of them are not.
While I think all beaches should have at least one public beach access, the truth of the matter is, that there are some private properties that is directly on the beach with no public beach access. Quite frankly, no one should be encouraged to trespass on anyone’s private property. Would you want anyone to come onto your private property without your authorization?
The Government needs to negotiate with some of these private property owners to see what agreement can be reached to develop public beach access. Of course, some owners may have some conditions such as the installation of toilets and the number of activities and the type of activities that can be accessed through on their properties.
Prince of Wales Drive Beach
On March 2nd, 2023, the Director of the Department of Environmental and Coastal Resources (DECR) issued a letter to all vendors operating on the Prince of Wales Drive Beach. In that letter, she mentioned that it is not a vending location, and the vendors should discontinue operating business there immediately. She also offered alternative locations such as Chalk Sound National Park, Blue Hills, and Frenchman’s Creek National Park.
I know this will hurt a lot of businesses, but the truth is Prince of Wales Drive is privately owned. Perhaps that is why the Government did not designate that area as a vending location because there is no public beach access there and the land does not belong to the crown.
Therefore, I endorsed the letter written by the Director. When we put people in position of authority, allow them to do their job. There is no need for the ministry to withdraw the letter otherwise the Government more than likely may be faced with legal issues.
I am aware of the convenience for the vendors to access the mangroves but not because something is convenient means you have the right to use it especially if is it not public. I know many people have been using the area under the assumption that it is public beach access, but it is not. I really think some of these vendors should consider conducting business at the marina in leeward or by Mr. Walkin’s marina.
The recommended way forward.
- In the Turks and Caicos Islands National Beach Access Policy, it is stated that there are approximately 83 public beach accesses. I believe that these beaches’ accesses should be identified and labelled so that everyone will know where the public beach accesses are. Furthermore, these beach accesses should be enhanced and have restroom facilities.
- I think the Government should identify suitable sites near the beaches and establish a vendors’ location so that vendors can have a place of business nearby.
- Increase the human and capital resources of the DECR so that they can effectively do their job and enforce the beach and coastal vending bill.
- I don’t think all beach access should be used for commercial activities. Some beach access should be reserved just for personal use.
- At some point a decision must be made on the maximum number of businesses and the maximum number of boats etc that can conduct business directly on the beach. I believe some private owners would agree for a few businesses to use their property to access the beaches.
- The government must maintain its current beach accesses and not give them away to anyone and not exchange them with anyone.
- The Government needs to have a discussion and negotiation with the private owners of land that is near beaches that do not have public access.
As our country continues to attract thousands of tourists, many individuals will want to become entrepreneurs offering beach activities for these tourists. I love the entrepreneurship spirit, but we must do the right thing. We should not violate the laws of the country, nor should we violate the privacy of people’s property.
Of course, the beaches should be accessible by all but if some of the beaches can only be accessed through private property, it is up to the private property owners to allow the access or a negotiation to take place between the Government and the private property owners.