The Urban “Development” Corporation and Winnifred Beach

Yesterday this flashed across my Twitter timeline

O Lord, what now? (Click image to be taken to article)

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? 

View from my hotel in Hong Kong. Their Harbour was a hive.

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

Jhanelle, who is originally from St. Thomas, feels passionately about what happens when "development" comes to the countryside.

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*

My sister and cousin racing down to the water at Winnifred Beach. They had a ball.

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)

More on “Progress” and “Development” and Jamaica’s Environment (January 2007)

Well, Then (February 2007)

10 Responses to “The Urban “Development” Corporation and Winnifred Beach”
  1. Emma Lewis says:

    Once again, you have hit the nail squarely on the head. I could not agree more. Portland is getting some blows at the moment. You may or may not have seen that some new “development” plans for Pellew Island (Monkey Island) have been presented to the Parish Council – who turned down the first application last year I believe. But, like the fake beach on Blue Lagoon, they may turn around and grant permission this time! A horrible thought. The threat of the “development” has been hanging over Winifred’s Beach for years. They turned off the water there years ago because they said locals were abusing it and using it to do their washing. But why can’t there be a happy medium in these things? As you say, a sprucing up of the beach, proper facilities put in… BUT all those villas?? It’s a way to keep the public out…and of course, you know the greedy and powerful are the ones who are benefiting, being given a helping hand by other powerful people (and it’s not hard to figure out who they are)… This has always been happening to poor Portland. This beautiful place has been raped, exploited and still in continuous decline. No employment, no benefit to the people… and not even any tourists! It is sad, sad.

  2. jhanelle says:

    I am at the gate, waiting to board n so I’m just on my phone but lawd jeezas renee, nuh start mi pon dat riu experience! n sadly I was already booked into riu ochie after that coz of a wedding but the bad taste from Negril was confirmed absolutely putrid n I have been literally bunnin bad lamp fi dem ever since then. Vowed to never go back n dissuade as many as possible. anybody ask I say Booooooooo riu n Booooooooo bahia n all dem as a matter of fact. I have to answer when I get to a computer coz my finger hurts n its so tedious to double check that this auto correct isn’t changing my words. but the real response will include oh how I worry what this “airport” supposedly coming to amity hall. *sigh* I sigh again renee—the heart still heavy.

  3. Eqlektik says:

    I totally agree with your conclusions, pretty soon us locals won’t have access to our birthright. If we continue on this path there will be no unspoiled stretch of land left in Jamaica. The only reason the Spanish Hoteliers are here is because the Spanish government has halted construction of all such behemoths in Spain and are actively reclaiming the beach fronts and restoring them to some semblance of their former environmental balance. Suh the Spanish Conquistadors pitch pan wi like fly because wi is a likkle “third world” country weh love U.S. dollas.

    • petchary says:

      This is absolutely true. In the 1970s I was in Ibiza and was horrified to see these huge concrete structures built right on the most beautiful beach. They have actually knocked down quite a few of these monstrosities now… so as you say, they are busy turning their attention to ruining the environment (such as Pear Tree Bottom, once a beautiful wetland) in someone else’s country. But I blame the politicians too, they were just licking the conquistadors’ boots and it is not just the US Dollars… they were promised JOBS! But again – how many Jamaicans work in these places I wonder?

  4. Ms. Nikks says:

    This makes me so angry. We have a house in country, way up in the hills of Trelawny and I’m telling you if this was happening there I’d be doing the most to make sure it doesn’t happen. Jamaicans are fighters, but oftentimes they are fighting for the wrong things. I hope the ones who are brave enough to fight this will inspire others and keep going until they have victory.

    Jamaica needs to wake up and stop selling out to people who don’t give a damn about us, our children, and our futures. God help us all, who’s going to look out for us? We have to start fighting and demanding that they restore and preserve what’s ours.

  5. Shumpynella says:

    Well said everyone. When I saw that a beach now existed at Blue Lagoon, I thought, who is going to jail for that? Not to be flippant and rude, but those ppl can read? If so, why won’t they READ, broaden their horizons, about the economic, social, and cultural impact of these projects? How do you make such huge decisions in the dark? It seems like the only info they have is the business plan from the developers that paint the projects as rainbows and sweet life. Backfoot.

  6. Sheron says:

    In addition to Winnifred Beach – there are the not too small matters of Blue Lagoon, Navy Island and Monkey Island. Loving the sentiments I see expressed here. My heart lies in St. Thomas and Portland too – it’s where I’ll be laying my weary head soon. Anyway – check out my ’cause’ started in 2009 on Facebook which I recently ‘found’ after it had ‘disappeared’. Sheron

    • Sheron, thanks for reading. The assault on Portland is so dangerous and very disheartening. I love the eastern parishes of Jamaica and wish that it is developed RESPONSIBLY! I’ve been hearing about the Monkey Island plans and will check out the link you suggested to learn more; thanks for sharing.

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  1. […] with Portland, it seems that the Government of Jamaica is intent on destroying Jamaica’s environmental […]

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