Another Heather Cole Column – Public Beaches or Segregated Beaches?
Submitted by Heather Cole
I have a sentimental attachment to Crane Bay so perhaps that makes me biased with regards to any chaos that revolves around it. I spent many days in my youth on that beach, being rolled up in the waves, and on those long summer evenings taking a walk up the long expanse of the beach all the way to the dark hole, mostly in search of sea grapes. When it was too hot my friends and I sat on those benches on the jetty in the shade enjoying the breeze of the sea and the magnificent view and the boys jumping off the jetty. I have memories from long ago of a man who we called Masters who was either the manager or the owner of the Hotel. He used to get the watchman to run us if we came onto the property but we did not loiter there. We used the hotel to facilitate our access to the beach since my grandmother’s house was a stone’s throw from where the walls of the hotel now stand.
In those days, there were no walls so we walked the quarter mile up to the hotel walked through, passing the pool and making our way down the steps to the beach instead of going the mile on the public road. Once we cleared the hotel and made it to the beach we were safe. I do not remember any occasion that we were asked to leave the beach. Truth be told what I remember now is what I can only term as an act of defiance against Masters and that was dipping and washing our sandy feet in the beautiful pool as we made our way back through the hotel. While Masters denied our access to the beach, our presence on the beach was not denied. It was like a safe haven.
However, thinking rationally we have a sore thumb. We have a problem today that is not going away. No matter how much we pacify it by putting that thumb is our mouth and sucking on it, when we take it out, it is still sore. The very idea of having a PUBLIC beach that has a restriction is ridiculous. How can there be a public space that is owned by an individual from the high tide mark to his property. My interpretation is that the Act therefore only gives John Public access to the sea and not full use of the beach. If the beach was truly public property no one private party could claim any part of it as their property.
Anything that is for public use or consumption but comes with restrictions is segregated. So taking it a step further, one can state that some beaches are actually not truly public but segregated if Barbadians are denied the acts of vending, relaxing and walking on them. What we have here is a clear case of segregation of the beaches in Barbados hidden in plain sight as the law has legalized this segregation.
In a public car park everyone can park their car. In public schools no one group of persons can claim part of the school as for their race. Public transportation is Barbados is not segregated with the front of the bus for one race and the back for another. In 1955 Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus that was used for public transportation sparking the Civil Rights Movement. The inhumane system of apartheid which institutionalized racial segregation and discrimination ended in 1991 in South Africa. So why do we have a law on the statute books that institutionalizes where we can go on the beach and sets a portion of the beach aside for private ownership?
Coastal erosion has all but destroyed the beach at the Crane. It is a mere shadow of its former self. The beach that I remember was perhaps three times the size in width of what it now. It means that according to this high tide arrangement the hotel, vendors and nationals compete for an increasingly diminishing resource.
It would be interesting to see the title deed of the Crane Hotel and any other hotel or beach property to see what has been conveyed.
In my opinion, the best solution is to repeal and create a new piece of legislation or amend the legislation removing the reference to the high tide mark because that law is discriminatory against Barbadians and the law should not be in conflict with itself either in principal or practice and; public must mean available to all in entirety.
Clearly there is over reach in the legislation in allowing a high tide mark to restrict access on public property. It is indeed shameful that the Attorney General who is a resident of St Philip and more importantly the defender of the public interest has not uttered a single word on this matter. Since this government is doing nothing to resolve this problem, the next government must aim for steady, pragmatic leadership which resolves this chaos