The Urban “Development” Corporation and Winnifred Beach
Yesterday this flashed across my Twitter timeline
I clicked the link and read the article. As I feared, plans are afoot to “develop” the area adjoining Winnifred Beach in Portland, which would undoubtedly result in limited or no access to the beach for the Jamaican public. Yes, the Jamaican public…you know the folks who every so often would like to go visit one of their country’s beaches with family to stare at the water or build a sand castle with their children.
This would be the same Winnifred Beach that I recently wrote about in Travel Memories: Portland, Jamaica. The spot where I took one of my favourite pictures: two young boys playing football with scarcely a care in the world. Apparently the Urban “Development” Corporation plans to
develop the lands on which the beach is located, under Fairy Hill Phase 2. The features of Fairy Hill Phase 2, according to the 2006 environmental impact assessment (EIA) report on the proposed development, included not only the construction of beach cottages and residential lots, but also a Fairy Hill Beach Park
BEACH PARK? But there’s more
“The main feature of this development will be the 29 residential lots ranging in size from 821 metres square to 1,505 metres square. Beach cottages will also be constructed to provide temporary dwelling opportunities for beach patrons and other visitors to Portland who are desirous of extending their length of stay,” the EIA report added.
I am going to ignore how awkwardly that last sentence is written. So the hook for the UDC paying more attention to Winnifred Beach was the “lack of sanitary conveniences.” Fair enough and a good reason to focus on the beach…but who came up with the idea to build homes, beach cottages and a BEACH PARK? OK, ‘fess up — whose friend made a phone call after driving in from town for a weekend?
Another journey into hey we have an idyllic, beautiful spot so let’s fuck it up with ugly concrete and more people traffic and the inevitable strain that places on an area? Why should I have any faith in the UDC’s ability to execute development of beach front property that does not (a) damage the environment and (b) become like Hellshire? The last time I visited Hellshire Beach in St. Catherine I felt harassed, could barely find a place to walk much less sit quietly and enjoy some fried fish, and I dared not venture into the water. I do not trust the UDC to develop anything but mayhem. This is the organization responsible for “developing” the Kingston waterfront, no? They’ve had offices on Ocean Boulevard for years and nothing substantial has been done to make Downtown Kingston and Kingston Harbour a center of commerce, vibrant activity, and consistent production. All without making it look chakka chakka. All while taking into account that Downtown Kingston is home to a sizable number of people. Making
the place look chakka chakka development happen eh?
I remember when I visited Hong Kong and the first time I laid eyes on their harbour. I saw movement and work going on, money being made…I thought why can’t Kingston Harbour look like this? In fact in my call to Daddy to say I’d arrived safely that’s one of the things I remarked to him. Listen to me, this makes me irate. It’s not “let us preserve what we have but do some upgrades like bathroom facilities and maybe a licensed restaurant.” I’m not suggesting that we stand in the way of anyone being able to own a home or make some money to eat a food but, seriously, must everything on the 4,244 square miles weh wi have end up look like a concrete jungle?
I don’t suggest that the less-discovered parishes in Jamaica be held back or doomed to a backward existence. I do suggest that the current confusion, poor infrastructure planning and quality, and just plain ugliness of Negril, Montego Bay, and Ocho Rios have gone unnoticed by people. What shining examples of the UDC’s work those are. Why would you want other areas of the island to look like that? Why go down that road? Is no one thinking of a more environmentally sustainable and responsible way of “developing” Jamaica so that we don’t spoil the natural beauty that we have? You know, the natural beauty that is the cornerstone of the TOURISM industry AND resting place of almost 3 million people? What in the hell is going on here.
I am glad that residents of Portland got together and are fighting this. Along with the debacle that is unfolding at Blue Lagoon, Portland seems to be under attack. This despite the many people I talk to – Jamaican or other nationalities – who love Portland because it is untouched. My dad’s coworker and his family went to Jamaica one year, rented a car and drove around simply exploring and truly seeing what our island is about. They did not want the
hostage all-inclusive experience. And, when they visited Portland, they enjoyed its authenticity and beauty.
But a far greater problem exists: the way that ordinary, regular Jamaicans are being squeezed out of public spaces. God forbid that the citizens and residents of an island would even think that they had a right to enjoy any one of the places where coastline meets water. And say a prayer and chant a Psalm should these citizens and residents dare attempt to visit and enjoy this place where coastline meets water.
I posted the article to Facebook and my friend Jhanelle commented soon thereafter
In case you cannot (sidebar: please note, cannot is one word) click the image, here is her comment
oh lord. this is what i always dread in the country side. once u get any major “development” you end up losing what you have. i am all for having bathrooms and whatnot around but if u end up making it into a pay to get in, what will the local ppl do? i drove around tobago and their public beaches had sanitary conveniences and some even had a little restaurant and whanot, but it was still public. wouldnt that be a happy medium? i’ve always wanted some sort of development to hit the east but as always it comes with a price. this kind of fight is what i fear will happen to St Thomas once ppl really realize that there are some beautiful natural treasures in the parish–we just cant get to them with out roads. it starts with a simple privatization then next ting some big ass spanish owned hotel take up all the prime real estate and if we just want go see fi di likkle holiday u haffi go find more dan u lunch money! smh. *sigh* its already hard to even buy a piece of property as a simple likkle man coz you never know when these things are for sale. Winnifred is one of those beaches even ppl in st thomas go to when dem want a nice likkle trip. *sigh*
She said it so well, far more eloquently than I could. Jhan is from from eastern Jamaica – Duckenfield, St. Thomas – and naturally wants some attention paid to that side of the island. Attention yes but what is the march of ‘progress’ toward ‘development’ really mean? O the cost of this thing. I’ve said before and I’ll say again: development need not and cannot come at the expense of our environment.
O, and her point that this is could very well be the road to some Spanish owned hotel defacing otherwise pristine surroundings is another but just as important an issue. Those hotels in western and northern Jamaica may have come with many jobs and high occupancy but not only are they ugly but they are environmentally unsustainable. WHY ARE THEY RIGHT ON THE BEACH? I’ve stayed at one of the RIUs in Negril — my first and last time doing so — and was appalled at the small space between the hotel’s facilities and the shoreline. I was appalled at the way that they treated their staff. I was appalled at the sheer size of the hotel. It’s behemoth. Grotesque. Who approves these things? O, right. NEPA. Great. And, of course, the Spanish felt like they were beholden to no Jamaican now that they have brought ‘development’ to us and we better tek it and shet wi mout’ and kibba wi tongue. Heh.
I’ve been beating this drum for so long!
Pellucid (May 2006)
Jamaica Environmental Trust & Bahia (June 2006)
Unbelievable (September 2006)
Another Move to Destroy Our Environment (October 2006)
Conserving the Environment Does Not Mean No Development (December 2006)
Keeping the Pressure On (December 2006)
A Valuable Lesson on Conservation (January 2007)
Sign the Petition to Save Cockpit County (January 2007)
Well, Then (February 2007)