The Daily News. Friday. August 13,1993
Tourism threatens public access to our beaches
Last year, I wrote a e
rial against the proposed hotel at
Lindqvist beach. The other day I
was on St. Thomas and to my sur-
prise, I saw two men fencing the
beach property. I spoke with them
for a while inquiring what was the
purpose of fencing the area.
Traditionally in the Caribbean, it
is accepted policy that a beach is
public property whether or not there
is public access to it. Lindqvist
beach is no exception. It is the last
open public beach on the eastern
side of St. Thomas.
The tourist boom has created a
big demand for tourist related
developments along our coastal
areas. In the past, most hotels and
centered near towns.
Today, hotels and condomini-
ums are a common site along our
shorelines, creating conflicts
between developers and the public.
Yet the government continues to
tell us that more hotels will boost
As a result, access to many
beaches have disappeared, on St.
The shores of these islands have
always been a place for recreational
use, meditation, or for just enjoying
the natural environment.
To our fishermen, the sea is a
way of life. The sea also has been a
constant source of food for the peo-
pie of these islands. But today even
the fishermen are threatened.
Yet the Virgin Islands Open
Shorelines Act clearly states that
the public has the right to use and
enjoy beaches or shorelines "from
the seaward line of low tide. run-
ning inland to a distance of 50 feet;
or to the extreme seaward boundary
of natural vegetation which spreads
continuously inland; or to a natural
barrier; whichever is the shortest -
There have been many public
protests about beach access in the
past. Shoy Beach on St. Croix,
Hawks Nest beach on St. John and
Bolongo Bay on St. Thomas have
seen their share of public protests. It
is clear to me that some of these
developers totally disregarded the
law of the land.
We have many problems in our
society, from burglaries to murders.
Both the police and the public are
frustrated with rising crime that is
destroying this community's sense
of security. However, many of us
do not realize thai the question of
beach access also can become a
Take Cabrita Point on St.
Thomas, for instance. A developer
had put up a gatehouse which was
not authorized by the permit grant-
ed to him. At first the developer
tried to deceived the public by
putting up a sign on the building
saying it was an "Information
Office." This sign was later taken
down and area residents knew it
would always be a gatehouse.
This is the kind of nonsense that
takes place in these islands.
I also have attended many public
hearings where developers will
promise to leave public access to
the beach, only to go back on their
words when the development takes
Some people end up going
through hotel lobbies or parking
areas to get to the beach. Eventual-
ly, many of them feel unwanted and
the once popular beach is not used
by local residents any more.
The Coastal Zone Management
Commission of these islands is
responsible for protecting the devel-
opment of coastal areas. Yet, the
CZM has often been criticized by
the public for the way the permits
Sources say the CZM often is
flooded with applications from
developers and employees are
unable to devote enough time to
study each application properly.
This has created serious prob-
lems. Critics say the CZM is not
applying the law fairly.
There are no easy solutions to
these problems. The rights of prop-
erty owners must be respected. But
public access to the beach also must
be protected. Purchase agreements
and government regulations must
be carefully studied.
The public has the right to be
heard. I believe Lindqvist beach
should never become another resort.
It should remain as It is a place
where everyone can enjoy the tran-
quillity of nature.
Olasee Davis, who holds a maas-
ter ofscieznce degree in range
management mu andforestry ecology,
is a St. Croix ecologist, activist and,