New beach signs erected but access issue rolls on

| 04/09/2018 | 37 Comments

Cayman News Service(CNS): The newly formed Public Lands Commission has begun rolling out beach access signs across Grand Cayman as part of efforts to address issues concerning beach access. This includes owners of oceanfront homes continuing to deter the public from using beaches in front of their property. Local activist groups are nevertheless still trying to get the issue addressed in court, especially because increasing coastal development is making it harder for residents to enjoy the Cayman Islands’ beautiful beaches.

Government has repeatedly promised to address the issues of access, but many activists still believe the issue is not being tackled and owners continue to chase away local people attempting to get to the beach, because what belongs to landowners and what is public remains confusing.

A group of concerned citizens who have been pressing government for more than 15 years to register beach access points are still battling to get the case heard in court, even though they say it is within the remit of the attorney general to get the easements and rights of way registered.

After a long battle, the group has secured some legal aid funding, though not enough to cover the cost of bringing the case, which they say is a public interest case and should therefore be paid for by the public purse.

While the land commission has begun rolling out the signs, the message is not always getting through.

During the last sitting of Finance Committee, members voted to set aside $10 million to buy land, which will include beachfront properties and beach access pathways for public use. Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, the minister responsible for lands, said she was anxious to see public beach property in all of the districts to ensure all residents are able to enjoy the beach.

According to guidelines published by the Department of Tourism for condo and hotel owners, the public has a right to use any part of any beach in the Cayman Islands for recreation, even above the mean high-water mark.

“Such a public right is one of a group of rights which members of the public enjoy, even over private land, in the Cayman Islands. It is a right which the law presumes to have existed for many years and which members of the public have acquired under the Prescription Law,” the DoT states in an appendix to its accommodation inspection guide.

Cayman News Service

Private beach sign in West Bay

The public has no right to use owners’ beach furniture but they cannot be prevented from using the beach or passing to and fro along the beach, even where the beach they use is on private land.

The emergence of another sign on Seven Mile Beach in West Bay caused a recent stir on Facebook as local residents pointed out that the beaches are not private.

In February this year, government published a report about beach accesses all around the islands and discovered a catalog of problems, such as a lack of signs to indicate the public rights of way, and gated and blocked pathways.

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Category: Local News

Comments (37)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Great that the Public Land Commission seem to be making some progress.
    Now there are a mix of newer “Public Beach Access” signs and older “Beach Access” signs and there is the difference. Confusing for new visitors.
    Just imagine a half mile walk down SMB, nice but there is an issue for visitors.
    The PLC have missed the bus here, its all very well pointing everyone to the beach from the road end of the parcel, but no signs at the beach end of the access paths so visitors can be unsure of which paths they can use to leave the beach and get back to the road again.
    The beach end of the paths is where this type of phantom “private” signs are placed.
    Study the official 2017 report pdf photos, there is a plethora of similar signs shown all the way down smb on public land (way ahead of the vegetation line), they are not erected on private land.

  2. Anonymous says:

    There are plenty of places to access the beach without these pathways that run right next to private property. They are a security risk for owners, even aside from the problems of having grubby 1990s Japanese wrecks parked up on the road beside them.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Some owners think they can own the beach, the water, and keep people from accessing it like so many miles of Florida coastline. If you come to Cayman to buy up waterfront to keep people out, try to understand how precious the sea is to our nation. The public easement along the shore to the mean high tide mark is worthless if owners thwart access to it. Once can see all sorts of signs, walls, debris etc. in many places in an attempt to convert public property to their own. If you want more waterfront privacy, there are large countries favoring the rich that will accommodate you.

  3. Born KY1 says:

    It dont make sense to have an access to the beach, and there is NO PARKING SPACES to let out children or elderly.

    Government planning is a joke!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Particularly enjoy the sign pointing straight through the middle of the fence at the Spotts dock. Make them try and stop me when a cruise ship is in up there.

  5. Anonymous says:

    The first thing that needs to happen is for Planning to return to the original interpretation of high water mark (which was where the waves reached in High water such as produced by Nor’easters or Nor’westers etc) and usually coincided with the vegetation line .

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  6. Land Crab says:

    Wait until the new piers are built and more cruise ship passengers seeking somewhere to sun bathed, sorry to say but all these owners will have no choice but to sell and at a loss. Mr. Ebanks stated on the radio the piers are good for business (his), be careful you are not your nose to spite your face.

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  7. radiostationx says:

    What if someone Trips over the owners sign (which is placed on public land) and they sustain an injury ? That would make an interesting law case and a nice payout for the claimant. Maybe then these ridiculous fixtures will be banned.

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  8. anonymous says:

    We could do with one of these signs at the Public Beach on busy cruise ship days.

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  9. radiostationx says:

    The type of sign shown in this article are purely for the purpose of intimidation.
    For the most part,They are actually erected on crown land not on the owners property at all.This type of sign is prevalent at the beach end of public access pathways. The furniture (that you cannot use) is also on crown land. On SMB Some condos nestled between 2 large hotels have even planted new young Casuarina trees forward of the vegetation line to match existing trees so that in 10 yrs time the owners have another new property line 12ft further forward of their exising one. The young trees are about 10ft high right now and they are hard to spot butin 10yrs they wont !
    12ft of land may not sound a lot but 12ft by 100 yards is a lot of new canopy and associated land.
    They must think we are stupid.
    If I erect a sign on public beach I would be committing an offence, I could be arrested and rightly so. The big guys get away with it.
    Public Lands Commission…Get a grip, Man up. Get rid of illegally placed and intimidating signage, period. Put signs up on the beach stating what is public if thats what it takes.

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  10. Anonymous says:

    Some of the “concerned citizens” have a conflict of interest in that they have a commercial interest in getting already “advertised” beach access, when in fact, they do not and did not, have a right to access private land.

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  11. They Dont Care says:

    Its terrible! They even made it hard to park your car at the access – so it becomes hard to go to the beach!

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    • Anonymous says:

      I think thats the key complaint. People are not complaining so much about the access itself to the beach. Rather its the access to the access … lol

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  12. Anonymous says:

    From the Department of Tourism, page 56 of the 2012-13 TOURIST ACCOMMODATION INSPECTION GUIDELINES & REGULATIONS manual.
    Appendix D
    GUIDELINES FOR OWNERS AND MANAGERS OF BEACHFRONT
    PROPERTIES
    1. In order to dispel any confusion or misunderstanding which may have arisen in
    the past over the rights which members of the public enjoy over Cayman‟s
    beaches the following guidelines may be of assistance, especially to managers of
    beachfront hotels and other tourism related beachfront properties.
    2. The public access to Cayman‟s beaches is by the recognized public rights of way
    which are usually clearly marked on maps and physically on the ground.
    Landowners over whose land these public rights of way exist are under a legal
    duty to make sure that they are kept free and clear of any obstruction or debris.
    3. Once members of the public arrive on the beach the following rules apply.
    4. The seaward boundary of a landowner‟s or tenant‟s property is, in tidal waters,
    the mean high water mark. Between the mean high water mark and the low
    water mark, known as “foreshore”, the land belongs to the Crown as does
    anything below the sea up to the limit of territorial waters.
    5. Where, however, a landowner‟s property consists of “beach” above the mean
    high water mark, then the usual rule, that a landowner can eject anyone he
    chooses from his land, is displaced.
    6. Members of the public have the right to use any part of Cayman‟s beaches for
    recreation even though the part of the beach being used is on private property,
    i.e. is above the mean high water mark. Such a public right is one of a group of
    rights which members of the public enjoy, even over private land, in the
    Cayman Islands. It is a right which the law presumes to have existed for many
    years and which members of the public have acquired under the Prescription
    Law.
    7. Whilst members of the public have no rights to use private property such as
    beach furniture which belongs to beachfront property owners, they may not be
    prevented from using the beach or passing to and fro along the beach even
    where the beach they use is on private land. Hotel managers should ensure that
    all staff working on the beach such a security personnel and food and beverage
    staff are aware of the law and that the public right to use any part of the beach
    is not restricted or limited in any way.

    THE PUBLIC LANDS LAW, 2017
    (LAW 35 OF 2017)
    26. (1) No person shall, without lawful authority, obstruct or interfere with the
    right of a member of the public under this Law to have access to public land, to
    use public land or to exercise a public right of way over private land.
    (2) A person who contravenes subsection (1) commits an offence and is
    liable on summary conviction to a fine of five thousand dollars or to
    imprisonment for a term of six months, or to both, and shall in addition to such
    fine or imprisonment be liable to a fine of five hundred dollars per day for every
    day after conviction that such obstruction continues to persist.

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    • Jotnar. says:

      The DOT guidelines are just guideline nes with no legal authority and the Public Lands Law refers to public lands – not private land where a prescriptive right of use may exist. So quote it all you like – not legally relevant. The only way of resolving this is to modify the law to make the assumption of prescriptive rights binding, or in each and every case argue in from of the court that access rights apply. The former is obviously more efficient but CIG will never do it. Too scared of the landowners – especially the big developers- and if compensation claims from landowners. Kick that can down the road.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Read the text of Public Law above which clearly states the public has the right to use PUBLIC LAND and PUBLIC RIGHT OF WAY. There is no law allowing the public to use private land regardless of what the Department of Tourism may say in their guidance for tourist-accommodations

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  13. Anonymous says:

    Sorry to burst your bubble, but there is no actual law that says what the department of tourism claims. That is why no one is willing to sue.

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  14. Anonymous says:

    I went to Kaibo by boat on Sunday and was shocked to see that a piece of land adjacent to the bar and condos, that I remember as being for public access, being landscaped. I heard from friends that it appears the intention is to use this once tree filled land as a parking lot and wedding venue. Is this true, how can this small green haven and beach where we used to have family picnics be spoilt for business purposes, is it Kaibo developing or another business?
    This happening too much on Cayman. Greedy business and developers taking extra land and beach for their own profit and to hell with what the public are entitled.
    Where are the MLA’s, Lands Commission, Planning etc..?

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    • Anonymous says:

      You said it best!

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    • Anonymous says:

      This is a disgrace. Not only is a sanitised version of its former self, it’s characterless and run by idiots who care nothing for our laws and rights.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Dart owns RP and made a mess out of parking there.
      Does Dart own Kaibo Beach, too?

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    • Anonymous says:

      You mean the piece of private property, not public property, that everyone used to ‘jump the fence’ and utilize? Yeah, shame about people trying to make some money off of their own land instead of letting everyone use it for free.

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      • Anonymous says:

        If was private, why didn’t the owner stop it’s use? Having visited that site since before Kaibo was even a cabana, and doing so since I was a child, I don’t recall a fence or people jumping it. As far as anyone I know recalls, it was a piece of non developed land that was left aside for public access.
        Shame they need to make money in such a destructive way. Shame.

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        • Anonymous says:

          It seems much improved. I’ve been around there for 15 years and this was a just an overgrown, trash and junk-filled lot all that time. Not even the Easter campers could penetrate it.

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          • Anonymous says:

            If you been there for 15 year why you not help clean it up. Most of that crap came from Kaibo in first place when thier workers dump palms and garbage from beach and had fires.

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            • Anonymous says:

              So many whiners. Someone has already cleaned it up and will apparently fix it up. People may get married on the beach. How is this a problem for you?

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            • Anonymous says:

              It true you know. Kaibo was responsible for keeping that land clean and never did. Most of the crap dumped there came from Kaibo in the first place. Convenient that now it’s getting a clean up, but just to make money from it.
              No one wants to stop a nice wedding on the beach, but ya nah have to built a fake chapel on the water edge to do it in.u
              Wa dem tink me dumb?

    • Anonymous says:

      It is private land designated “land for public purposes.” It has been a trash heap and eyesore for years, and I don’t see how public parking and landscaping hurt your enjoyment of the beach? And are people not entitled to get married on the beach? And if you don’t like these improvements, try picnicking at the public park directly on the other side of Kaibo, or the public beach a few steps away at Starfish Point, or the other public beaches near Rum Point. So much whining…

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      • Anonymous says:

        Have you seen the cabana they are building directly on the beach, it’s certainly closer to the water than the mean high water mark + 10’. Which means the beach will be effectively closed during ceremonies. Please don’t try to tell me that’s legal or even reasonable. But I guess that’s okay as that won’t stop our enjoyment of the beach either as we walk from our property along the foreshore!!! Yes I own a property up there and have done for many years, as do other members of my family. Oh, and it’s not public parking it’s parking for a commercial premises and how does a commercial wedding venue benefit or purpose anyone from the general public, especially local property owners living around it? Perhaps we should encourage local people to use this newly dedicated ‘public’ parking for visiting the beach and exercising their right of access and enjoyment for free.
        You said the words yourself, public purposes, not commercial.
        So much arrogance…

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  15. Anonymous says:

    The law states the public has the right of access. What is confusing about that? Enforce the law and write it into planning conditions that an access MUST be made when a beachfront property is purchased (regardless of how many millions of dollars it was bought for).

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    • Anonymous says:

      Obviously the 1 thumbs down is a land owner who doesn’t want locals enjoying the beach even though the area the public is on would be below the high water mark which is land belonging to the Crown by law and NOT for the homeowner. F’n muppet.

      – Muppet Hunter

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  16. Anonymous says:

    Why do you need 10 million dollars to buy land that is already designated to the public ?
    These public Access roads are already on paper.
    Just clear it out.
    And one might wonder why these politicians wait 15 years to do something for the public.

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  17. Ron Ebanks says:

    Signs but no Laws to back those signs up . That was totally useless for erecting those signs. To me that’s like ok , we have put up signs and everything is good so you can go to the beach and shut your mouth, untill the landowners starts kicking you off , then the public is right back to square one .

    I think it’s a good time to tell every politician that these public beach access must be Legally registered now , or we/registered voters are going to hold them over your heads next election .

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